Thoughts For Thursday: Absurd Responses to an Absurd World

C’est la vie, c’est la guerre, c’est la pomme de terre. (That’s Life, That’s war, That’s a potato.)

I know… It seems like there’s a bit of a theme going the last couple of weeks since I started this whole boondoggle up again. I’m acting awfully curmudgeonly toward the people one usually classifies as curmudgeons. I’m throwing stones at my parents’ generation, getting angry at Christians, and—admittedly, to a lesser degree—other religious fanatics, and taking my own generation to task (albeit much more gently) for being apathetic. I guess if I had to describe the underlying cause of this outpouring of expression, I’d conjure an image of myself treading water in a sea of utter stupidity and nonsense.

Let me take a second and really paint that picture for you…

I set sail in the spring of ’78. I was on a boat akin to the U.S.S. Minnow. I was an unwanted (but not unloved) child. I was a bastard in a world where women like my mother were shamed for having kids like me. My biological father refused responsibility. It shouldn’t have been more than a three-hour tour. Then my mom and I crashed on this desert island that was my dad. Yes, I had a dad growing up. I’m not ever going to claim otherwise.

God, this is going to get really personal, but what the hell… let’s see where it goes.

I grew up during the 1980’s that our current idiot-in-chief fetishizes so much. John Rambo, Rocky Balboa, and John Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando) were my heroes. I mean, of course, there was He-Man, Luke Skywalker, and the Transformers, but those were make-believe.

Sarcastic apologies to all of you f*cking rubes out there who think that music, video games, toys, movies, or art of any kind “turns” kids into psychopaths. I knew the difference between fantasy and reality before I could spell my own name—and I watched The Terminator and worse at seven years old. That comes with being a part of the “Latchkey Generation.” We were raised by T.V., but we knew it was different than reality.

Still, I won’t deny that the propaganda of the “real” characters got to me. It’s one thing for a pre-teen to recognize that there’s no such things as time-traveling robots or lightsaber-wielding Jedi Knights fighting a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. It’s an entirely different animal to try and expect that same pre-teen to not idolize Sly Stallone with an M-60 mowing down Commies. Especially when Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, and Dan Rather tell you on the news that the Commies are a constant threat and you just watched The Day After on TV a few weeks before. The Commies were real. So guys like Rambo—our real-life G.I. Joes—were out there training to protect us from those evil Russian bastards.

That was life growing up as a boy in America in the 1980s. Soviets were always bad. America was always good. We were the greatest country in the world. We were the most free, the best at everything, and everyone else wished they were us.

In fact, in the comments section of last Thursday’s post, a gentleman proposed that I’d learned we lost the Vietnam war from the media. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I grew up watching TV shows like “Tour of Duty” and “China Beach.” I idolized Vietnam vets and thought that we kicked Commie ass in that war as a kid during the ’80s.

It wasn’t until I got to college and stared really studying history that I found out otherwise. So it wasn’t the “liberal media” that swayed my opinion. It was academia and reading primary source materials like Tim O’Brien’s “The Thing’s They Carried,” and the fact that, despite, taking hill after hill as my friend alluded to, we ultimately abandoned Vietnam to the Communists.

Still, the reality is, even if we’d “won” Korea… Even if we’d “won” Vietnam, those were proxy wars in which we should have never been involved to begin with. Even so, when I was a child, the “liberal media” told me that America was a good, noble, Christian nation. I mean, for f*ck’s sake! Hulk Hogan showed up as a caricature on my TV on Saturday nights and as a literal cartoon on Sunday mornings telling me to train, eat my vitamins, and say my prayers. Then he beat the shit out of Andre the Giant. (RIP)

Hulk, like ‘Mur’ca, was the good guy. As his intro song says, he’s “a real American… fights for the rights of every man…” Just let that settle for a moment. If you’re over 40, remember your youth. Now try and align that with the America you see today. Is this what it means to be “great again?”

But, that’s what I was led to believe. Just like I was led to believe the man who raised me was my biological father. Like I was raised to believe that Santa Claus brought presents every year, along with the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. And that there was a big invisible man in the sky called God who had a son named Jesus and I needed to believe in him so that I could get into heaven. And if I didn’t believe in him, I’d go to hell.

Time Out.

It’s disclaimer time. First: Yes, I fully acknowledge that everything I just mentioned was incredibly petty and privileged. White-people problems. First-world problems. Emo-whiny-ass bullshit? Yeah, probably. Nevertheless, it bothers me, and this is my virtual realm, so we’re gonna hash it out here. Don’t like it? Find some other blog with which to waste your time.

I didn’t grow up as a minority. I’m a straight white guy in his forties. Nevertheless, I grew up far closer to the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder than the top of it. I was never dirt-poor, but spent the bulk of my childhood on a farm. I wore home-made clothes and ate either meat from a butcher with whom my dad had bartered work, or fish that I caught out of a stream running through our land. That’s not an indictment of my parents. They actually provided for us very well, given our circumstances. It’s more meant to establish the fact that I’ve never been particularly “of privilege.”

In fact, when I say, “our land,” what I really mean is the bank’s land. My folks fell victim to the variable-interest rates of the 1980’s and our farm went under. We moved back to Spokane and my dad had to start from scratch.

To his credit, he built up a profitable small business from nothing, and before his medical issues kicked in, he was doing pretty well for himself. In fact, by the time I graduated high school, I have to admit we had a pretty decent standard of living. And that’s largely due to the sweat of my dad’s brow (though, mom started working, too, when we moved back to Spokane).

I grew up in rural areas. I never feared getting shot while walking down the street for wearing the wrong color, or—for that matter—having the wrong color skin. In fact, I barely ever feared getting my ass kicked by bullies.

So yes. I acknowledge that my life was not all that bad growing up. That said, I, like most Americans of Generation X, was lied to my whole life. Now, you can be apathetic to that fact and say, “Join the club, pussy,” or you can acknowledge that there are psychological consequences that come with deception after deception, and that those consequences are more severe than they might first appear.

Back to Our Absurd World and My Absurd Response

If memory serves, I was around 12 years old when I confronted my mother for confirmation that Santa Claus wasn’t real. Do you know what she told me? She said that Santa was real because of the “spirit of Christmas.” I shudder with connotations of the Holy Spirit. Six years later, we’d have an eerily similar conversation about my dad.

At once, I understood. And, for some reason, I’m still processing it, I buried the anger and betrayal. It could have been out of love and sympathy. After all, I loved my mother dearly, and I didn’t want to break her heart. It seemed that this revelation was doing just that, so I felt guilty. At the same time, I vaguely remember her imploring me not to tell my younger sisters.

I kept the secret another couple of years until my sisters eventually came around. On the other hand, my parents were known to go to great lengths to sustain the illusion. One year, they even made footprints across the living room floor from the chimney to the Christmas tree. This prompted my youngest sister to run to the chimney and yell her thanks up the flu to the imaginary fat-man in the ridiculous red suit.

Let’s get meta for a moment…

Seriously… I criticize my youngest sister a lot for her religious beliefs and they myopia that comes with them, but if you look at incidents like that one, how was she destined to be anything else? Her parents went out of their way to provide “proof” that there was magic in the world.

Hell, I even continued the farce for a few more years. It was around that time that I started becoming interested in religion—particularly Christianity, since, when we lived on the farm, I attended church regularly and was a part of AWANA. I began reading the bible in seventh or eighth grade. I also started praying regularly at that time.

I knew I’d been hornswoggled about Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy, but damnit, Jesus still had to be real. They wouldn’t dare f*ck with that… right?

Well, turns out it’s a bit more complicated.

Let me be clear… My parents only ever attended church when we lived in a small community in northeast Washington on the farm. That was from the time I was five until I was ten. During that time, we went to a “community” (evangelical) church and my sisters and I were shoved into programs like AWANA and Vacation Bible School. On the other hand, if you listened to my parents at home, it was clear that, to them, church was more of a social thing. After all, their best friends in the community were ultra-devout, so they kind of had to put on a show.

Nevertheless, being young and impressionable, the words of John 3:16 stuck in my mind like a tattoo purchased on a drunken Vegas tear.

I carried the weight of God with me from my early adolescence through my early adulthood. By the end of high school, I was attending church regularly, and a year or two after that, I was touring the Pacific Northwest in a Christian rock band. It wasn’t until our second tour that I really started to see the cracks in the sky—to borrow a metaphor from The Truman Show. We played some bigger festival shows, and I started to see how commercial the whole charade was. That wasn’t what I signed up for, so I quit.

Ooops… I feel we’ve lost our way…

Let me see if we can get back on track here. This isn’t a goddamned counseling session after all.

My point is that I was lied to over and over during my formative years. You can belittle that all you want, but ask me to trust you and see how far you get. I don’t trust anyone.

That’s my point tonight, boys and girls. Everybody lies. Nobody’s genuine. The whole shape of reality these days is a Salvador Dali painting. How do we respond when we can’t trust anything we see or hear?

How do we respond when we know that myriad dark forces with myriad dark motives are infiltrating our circles of friends, family, and other once-trusted comrades? You can’t argue with anyone anymore.

There are so many fake sources out there these days that just about anyone can find an authentic sounding source to back up just about any absurd argument. And you have the Boomers, who are completely lacking in critical thinking skills, ready to eat all of that shit up.

This generation, the one that’s currently sucking my social security and Medicare dry, and the most vocal of the Moronic Minority that supports Trump Beeblebrox, is so ill-prepared for the age of information that it almost makes me sad for them. I’d be sad, too, if it weren’t for the reasons outlined last Thursday.

These rubes—those born in the 1940’s and 1950’s—are used to having everything spoon-fed to them by a three-network media system and the print media. Once the internet hit and any idiot could start publishing whatever he/she wanted, they failed to see that for what it was. They were too stupid to try building websites for themselves, so they didn’t realize how easy it is to create a completely false identity, ideology, and even cult following online. Instead, they joined Facebook.

And like most moronic American consumers, they thought Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms were companies that were vendors to them… even though we all use their “services” for free.

NEWS FLASH: You are not Facebook’s customer. You aren’t YouTube’s customer. You’re not Instagram’s nor Twitter’s customer. YOU ARE THEIR PRODUCT!

Those are ALL billion-dollar corporations. How the f*ck do you think they make their money? They make money every time you fill out a survey or share a chain post that asks for a bunch of personal information, or every time you click on an ad that shows up in your feed. In short, they make their billions from YOUR DATA.

Where the Hell are We Going with This?

Yeah, I know. It seems like we’ve gone way off the rails. That’s kind of the point.

I’ve been going off free-form for 2000 words now, and I’ve only mentioned Trump Beeblebrox once (. He’s not the problem, boys and girls, he’s a symptom. He’s the tip of the goddamn iceberg.

Let me go back to the metaphor we started with. I’m swimming in a sea of stupidity. That’s how it feels. I’ve got aqueous morons all around me, and I can’t keep my head above them to shout out the warning. EVERYONE in my family is under the Jesus spell, and there’s nothing I can do about that. My dad, who—bless his heart—reads at about a fourth or fifth grade level, is trying to tell me that we’re in the midst of the end times. He swears up and down, “If you read the bible, then you’ll see what’s coming!”

Every time I hear that, I feel the sting of rock salt in a three-inch bleeding gash. But my dad’s infirm, he’s taken care of me his entire life, despite having no blood relation, and he needs help. Still, as soon as I hear the word “bible,” I want to throw the phone across the room.

Sorry, dad, but I know for a fact… FOR A FACT that I’ve forgotten more of the Bible than you’ve ever read. I was an evangelical for the better part of a decade and I have a Masters degree in English. I guarantee I understand the Bible more than you do.

That’s not to say my dad’s a moron. He’s not. By any means. If I need to know how to fix anything mechanical, I’ll defer to his judgement. You know why? BECAUSE I’M SMART ENOUGH TO KNOW WHEN I’M OUT OF MY GODDAMNED DEPTH!!!! I just wish the respect went both ways.

Then there’s my mother, who lives in her own reality. I love her dearly, but she doesn’t view the world the way that the rest of us do. That’s all I have to say about that.

So What’s The Point, Brandon?

A valid question, to be sure. See the beginning of the post, I invoked, “This is life. This is war. This is a potato.” In other words, who f*cking knows? That’s where I’m at right now, boys and girls.

My family and some of my closest friends are acting like people I don’t recognize. A global pandemic has killed more Americans in the last month than in the entire Vietnam war, yet Boomers still support a f*cking clown of a President who is more useless than a child molester. In fact, I’d rather hang out with a child molester. I mean, if I had to choose between the two.

Dogs and Cats Living Together…

Everything is topsy-turvy. Today I found out that Axl Rose had a Twitter feud with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnunchin. I started reading through the thread, and I actually found a guy who said something like “from what I can tell Axl Rose is a decent human being, [while Sec. Mnunchin, on the other hand, was a villain].” That gave me pause. I mean seriously. When we’re holding up Axl Rose as a bastion of moral superiority over cabinet-level government officials; everything’s f*cked.

Then I found out that Trump’s Beeblebrox’s campaign manager is embracing a “Death Star” moniker for the Idiot-In-Chief’s re-election campaign. In the words of Wayne from Letterkenny… “F*ck every duck.”

Okay Trumpers. Build your “Death Star” campaign, and consider me and the throngs of other Americans who don’t buy into your bullshit Luke Skywalker, motherf*ckers. You have seen those movies, right? You know, like when they pull the first one out in Episode IV and it gets blown-up. Then when they try building another one in Episode VI, and the rebels blow that one up, too. Then when they try building Starkiller base (the Death Star on steriods), and the resistance blows that up… are we sensing a pattern here? Finally, by Episode IX, JJ Abrams has fully committed to planet-killing tech, so he has a whole fleet of star destroyers with Death Star tech on each of them. Guess what? They still lose.


Have fun.

For the rest of you, I suggest the following:

Refuse to engage the Trumpers on any sort of real level. They don’t operate in reality. Answer their misinformation with absurdity. For example, I found some gems on Twitter this afternoon, and responded with a GIF of Jeff Goldblum looking at a giant pile of Triceratops shit from Jurassic Park. Another moron got a shirtless man GIF. Yet another one got an invitation to hang out and do awkward things together.

This is how you have to deal with these people. Fight fire with fire. Er… Fight crazy with crazy.

That’s my plan. You come at me with some stupid ass “Liberal-media bias” or “witch hunt” bullshit, all you’re gonna get from me is trolling. Because f*ck you for being ignorant. Because f*ck you for being too self-involved to think for a second about the consequences of your beliefs. And most of all, f*ck you for thinking it’s okay to lie to your kids, and society at large.

Truth matters. So does epistemology. Sorry, I know… If you’re a Trumper, you definitely don’t know what epistemology means. On the other hand, if you’re a Trump campaign strategist, you know exactly what it means and how to exploit it.

Epistemology is the study of how we know what we know. I’ve got a rather effective device to teach this to my students.

The Moose Thing… Again

I insist that I don’t believe in moose. Now, “everyone” knows that Moose are real, but I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest and have traveled EXTENSIVELY throughout the Western United States and Canada in my four decades, and I’ve never seen a real moose.

I’ve been to the San Diego zoo, and I’ve seen goddamn reindeer there, but no moose.

So, if I go solely by my own experience, I’m completely justified in not believing in moose.

Usually, when I tell students this, the first thing they say is “I saw a moose just the other day!”

To which I respond, “Cool. I saw a Sasquatch the other day, too.”

Then I’ll get students who like to send me pictures of moose that they see themselves. I ALWAYS respond with a picture of Sasquatch.

Because, for all I know, if I really don’t trust anyone, Sasquatch is just as real as a moose. After all, I’ve never seen either one in real life.

Obviously, I’m making an absurd argument about moose. However, in an epistemological sense, it’s not so absurd. After all, direct experience is a pretty powerful teacher. On the other hand, nobody can change history or make a significant contribution to modern society without learning from the work and words of others.

So, if I want to be truly educated, I need to move past my own sensory experience and accept that the volumes of scientific research that has been painstakingly peer-reviewed  (which NOBODY ever brings up in the moose debate, by the way) on moose habitat, zoological traits, behavior, and evolutionary biology are adequate means of confirming not only the existence of, but a plethora of other information about moose.

In other words, f*ck my own experience. I’ve also lived four decades without having been through a hurricane or an avalanche, but I believe they happen. So… just because I’ve never seen a moose doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

I HAVE to look at the preponderance of evidence and conclude that moose are real. Just like I have to believe that hurricanes and avalanches are real. You know why I haven’t seen a moose? I haven’t really camped in super-remote areas that often. Same reason I’ve never been in a hurricane or an avalanche. I’ve never hung out on the Atlantic coast during hurricane season and I stay off the mountains when there’s snow as a general rule.

You know what I have experienced, though? A tornado (actually three) in Texas in March. Several small-scale earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest, and the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. Can confirm… Those natural disasters are real.

Then again… who the hell knows what to believe, right?

Nope. Sorry, I’m not with you there. I’m fairly solid on my epistemology. I read the whole article. I apply my background knowledge and context clues to construct meaning from what I read. In other words, I use the skills I teach my kids to think critically about what I’m being fed.

I hope you do the same. Please. Save me from this sea of stupidity. I’m not sure how much longer I can tread water.

Author’s Note: This was written very late under the Hemingway model. I’ve since made a few small revisions in the light of day. Stay tuned for Fearless Friday later on.