Rocks > People? — Sept. 16, 2021

In high school, I was friends with a girl named Denise. She and I were both free-spirited creative types who liked to write. For a time, we served as co-presidents of the formed-by-us creative writing club, and we even went on a date (that didn’t work out too well).

Denise was and is a no-bullshit person, and I valued her friendship as a high schooler because what you saw was what you got. Denise wasn’t going to tell you what you wanted to hear. She was going to tell you the truth. Perhaps not surprisingly, Denise wasn’t a big fan of people. I will always remember one lunch time when we were outside of The Commons on a warm just-before-school-let-out-for-the-summer day and she said, “I don’t like people. I like rocks.”

We made fun of her for that. Playfully, of course. I was a social butterfly back then, a guy who, in the middle of a nasty, cliquish high school, floated between groups, generally being on good terms with everyone except Joey Sementelli, my middle school bully, someone whom I still loathe on principle though I haven’t seen him in 30 years.

Anyway, as time has gone on, I’ve become less of the butterfly and more of the lone wolf — or maybe it’s the stinky skunk. Whatever animal analogy you want to make, I have few people who actually know me. I don’t like this. I didn’t intend to do this. It just sort of happened. The older I got, the more I couldn’t make sense of people, of their motivations for doing the things they do, of their propensity to be assholes. People tend to tire me out these days, outside of the few who remain in whatever constitutes my inner circle. I have times where the ugliness of the world just smacks me in the face, where I see people do shitty things to others and to me, where the driver of the car behind me flashes her lights and gives me the finger instead of using either the lane to the left or the lane to the right to pass a 10-mph-over-the-speed-limit me on I-70.

Today was one of those days. I am working really, really hard at the end of a sprint that came at the end of a marathon. Ever since November, life has been absolutely insane. COVID, Longhaul COVID, the death of my father-in-law, the presence of a tiny African for six months, fighting to get paid my value at my old job, getting my house ready to sell, selling my house, starting a new job and moving. I. Am. Tired. There’s no doubt about that. So when a new co-worker does something that I considered pretty shitty, well, I’m just sad tonight. I’m sad people don’t treat each other better. I’m sad people aren’t who they show themselves to be. I’m sad communication is so easily interrupted by misunderstandings. I’m sad that people don’t more often talk to each other instead of about each other. I’m sad that things are the way they actually are in this country instead of the way I wish they would be.

In the end, I’ll be fine. I’m sprinting toward the finish line of this crazy race. We close on Old House in 10 days. New House is feeling more like New Home every day. My co-worker and I are already fine and moving forward as if nothing happened, as far as I’m concerned. Wifey Poo booked a cabin at the Lake for me to go to in early October to have a writing weekend. My boys are awesome. Life is good.

But sometimes I think Denise had it right. My thing isn’t rocks. It might be cigars, a good glass of dry red wine, the comfort of the blanket Wifey Poo made for me or music that makes me feel. People, though? People have the tendency to make my life infinitely more painful and confusing.


Date Morning

On a much brighter note, I had a date with Wifey Poo before work this morning. We intended to grab coffee and tea at Bread Co., or, as everyone else not from St. Louis knows it, Panera. Alas, the lobby was closed, I’m sure for lack of workers. So we went to Starbucks, which proceeded to take 25 minutes to make a cappuccino and a tea. Again, I blame the worker shortage. Get on that, Biden, would ya?

It was nice sitting outside in the morning sun and talking with Wifey Poo about random little things. We’ve had so much not-random-not-little lately that it was a good change to talk about stuff that really doesn’t matter much at all.


The ‘Don’t Blame Me, I Didn’t Say It’ of the Day

‘No.’

Rep. Barbara Lee, Sept. 14, 2001

“Hindsight is always 20/20.”

“Monday morning quarterbacking.”

“With the benefit of hindsight…”

These phrases (and others) are used to dismiss people who look back at a situation to critique what was done. And yes, it’s fair to give less weight to people’s opinions when they are shaped by everything that eventually unfolded instead of what was known at the time.

But this shouldn’t be used as an excuse to not look at how things actually unfolded. History can be very instructive to the present to help us shape a better future.

Rep. Barbara Lee serves California’s 13th District. Twenty years ago this week, she cast the lone dissenting vote against authorizing the use of military force in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.

Rep. Lee was not an unwavering pacifist. She wasn’t, as some of the voluminous hate mail she received accused, a secret member of the Taliban. She wasn’t even being partisan. Rather, she had a problem with the 60 words that made up the resolution, fearing that they empowered the presidency — not the specific president — to wage an unending war against unspecified enemies using never-before-used tactics on a new-concept battlefield.

The resolution she voted against read:

“That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”

Since our nation rightfully went after the organization from which the horrendous acts of 9/11 sprung forth, the president at the time and the men who followed him have used those words to justify deadly strikes against organizations and in countries that had absolutely nothing to do with the attacks on New York and D.C. Were they against people who perhaps shared some ideals with the 9/11 attackers? Certainly. Were they against people who oppose the “American way of life” (whatever that is) and our style of international diplomacy? Most definitely. Did these strikes prevent future acts of international terrorism against our country? Yeah, prolly.

Was Rep. Lee’s vote unAmerican?

Hardly.

Hindsight gives us the benefit of clarity. With a populace more interested in Kardashian fashion and eating Tide Pods, successive administrations from both parties took those 60 words and lit the fuse under our mighty military, using it as a bullwhip across the Middle East and Africa (and killing more innocent civilians than were killed here on 9/11 by multiples). Those words created the justification for torture and perpetual imprisonment of hundreds of human beings, some of whom were later proven to have absolutely no affiliation with any terrorist organization whatsoever. The list of organizations on the approved strike list grew and grew and grew but was kept secret even from Congress, giving the presidency free reign to annihilate those with differing religious and political persuasions and no connection to the events that unfolded on 9/11.

On the day of the vote that would make Rep. Lee a pariah, there was a memorial service in Washington, D.C., for the victims. A member of clergy urged the gathered, which included just about every senator and congressperson:

“As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore.”

Guantanamo Bay. Torture. Drone strikes that killed innocent civilians.

We became that evil. Patriotism turns out to be not much better than many of the other “isms” out there.

But hey. Hindsight is always 20/20.


Today’s Reasons to Keep Living

  1. My new boss is pretty bad-ass and doesn’t let problems fester. She tackles them head-on, without politics, and I appreciate that.
  2. Coming home to the country after a day like this. I can literally leave the insanity behind and sit out in the darkness listening to the nighttime bugs sing their songs.
  3. A good cigar.

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