Saturday, August 30, 2003

It's Hard Not To Lie

Now Reading: Lies and the Lying Liars That Tell Them

I can't help but laugh. I thought enviously: I can write! I can be funny! Why can't I have Al Franken's job?

But sometimes--not as much as Michael Moore, but a bit--Al's a bit mean.

Still, someone has to catch the liars. I'm not as starry-eyed about the Democratic Party as Franken by a long shot but I laugh very hard at some passages.

Bush lies about weapons inspectors

This made me think about how Bush gets away with lying. almost seems unfair to attack him! It's the whole 'developmentally disabled cousin' thing. Like you are having dinner and your developmentally disabled cousin says something like "I'm going to marry a lesbian!" And you chuckle or look down discreetly. But you don't say anything critical because that wouldn't be fair. He doesn't know any better.

I also realized it isn't that easy to avoid lying. It's difficult to never, ever lie. Not merely because you want to preserve people's feelings but because there are so many situations where lying preserves the ease of your life and truth would only make things much harder. Truth is a sticky, nasty and dangerous business.

There's also the case where people ask you questions and to avoid the answer would reveal the truth but you realize they had no business asking. An easy lie to rationalize but also perhaps a totally justified lie.

Then there is the 'I forgot!'

And the 'get myself out of trouble' lie.

Here's a Howard Dean lie. It isn't one of the worst.

Then there is the deliberate intention to mislead. The really bad, evil lie. I'd say some of the adminstration's lies are lies of that nature. "The big lie"--as in a political lie to manipulate the citizenry and increase one's own power.

The Big Lie is the lie that gets people killed, the subverts democracy and all the rest. But the teller of the Big Lie does not have his character exposed as cowardly or sneaky. Rather, the Big Liar is someone who made a plan and carried it out--and this is something Americans tend to admire. And this is why people get away more easily with Big Lies.

I think many people--conservatives at the current time, Communists at others and many other types--prefer the 'Big Lie.' The get out of trouble lie seems weak. Same with the self-aggrandizing lie. The white lie can also seem weak. The Big Lie is Machiavellian, strong, potent, virile. It's clearly the most culpable and dangerous sort of lying there is but it does not suggest effeminancy and powerlessness on the part of its teller. Just the opposite. I do think this may be why some people (and only some) don't mind the current 'Big Lie' but would become more incensed at little wimpy lies. Or Bill Clinton-esque slippery cheatin' heart lies. Or self-aggrandizing lies.

The guy who tells the 'Big Lie' is in control. (Well, not the actual spokesperson, i.e., president, in this case...but someone is in control.)

Friday, August 29, 2003

When Analogies Go Bad

You aren't going to get to the bottom of your strange 'work' thing most likely...but here's an analogy to keep in mind: OK. It's high school. And you think you are the ugly girl. You hide. You wear big baggy clothes. You stay at home. You don't talk. Your feeling are constantly hurt. You can't socialize. You stay in your room on the weekend and read novels and write in your diary.

You are a loser, yes. Of a certain type. But by choice. It's self-imposed loserdom.

Uh--don't forget you're not really in high school. But it is a bit of the same phenomenon. It's inexplicable--What makes some people cowardly nerds and others brave socializers? What makes one girl think she is fat when another girl who is fatter thinks she is hot?

Probably some kind of brain chemistry thing?

Wait--I'm losing the thread of this analogy...What was the point of this analogy? Oh, yeah. You behave in a way that seems easy and comfortable. You resent authority and crave invisibility. You hate risk. You perceive an external threat and act on it. But you are perhaps not the best judge of your actual situation--as hard as that is to believe.

So...uh...what is the point of this analogy? I forgot.
Note to self...

Miel--guess what? You cant' GET another job. You have a very good job. Your back is against the wall.

This is it--this is the job. You have no other job skills.

You have one choice and one choice alone: Work hard. Work very hard. Work harder. Be good at your job. It is the only job you will find besides scrubbing toilets.

OK? Get the picture now? No escape! You are trapped!

Work really hard at your $#%&*&!! job.
Oh, dear. I lauged at this one.

Harry answers the telephone, and it's an Emergency Room doctor.
The doctor says, "Your wife was in a serious car accident, and I have bad
news and good
news. The bad news is she has lost all use of both arms and both legs, and
will need help
eating and going to the bathroom for the rest of her life."

Harry says, "My God. What's the good news?"

The doctor says, "I'm kidding. She's dead."

Yeah? What's so bad about that?

Little Boy: What will communism be like when perfected?

His Father: Everyone will have what he needs.

LB: But what if there is a shortage of meat?

HF: There will be a sign in the butcher shop saying,
"No one needs meat today."

stolen from Jokes To Go

At least the startle reaction is universal...

People reacting to the photographer's van backfiring...

from the excitement machine

This reminded me for some strange reason of Riverbend's post in the past (I can't find it) where she said she could tell which weapon was fired by the sound.

I wonder if we can get used to loud noises after awhile?

By the way, Riverbend's blog is incredibly good. Also heartbreaking. I can't stop reading it. It makes me cry. Practically every post. But that's not saying much these days.

Sorry about the strange conceptual connection between backfiring vans and all the rest.

This one is especially painful to read--about what is happening to women with the rise of fundamentalism in Iraq.

Secret Meetings of the Home Repairmen

Americans searched Salam's house

They thought the 2 guys coming over to fix the kitchen were part of a Baath party cell.

I'm afraid the American soldiers were not terribly courteous.

I was struck by the way he described how soldiers tend to look at Iraqis--as if you aren't human.

So childhood memory #3: The police arrested a friend of mine in high school at the behest of her upper middle class parents. Since I was with her, I too was taken into custody but my parents were like 'Wha?! Our daughter was just standing there!' I was a really good girl. For the most part.

In any case, I remember that 'look' that fails to acknowledge the cop gave me when I asked him what was going on. Why was he arresting us? What had we done? He didn't answer. It was like I hadn't spoken. His eyes were dead to me.

It's not a look of hate. It is a cop look--you are looked at like an object and no engagement with the other human being (in this case, the cop) is possible. It's like a thousand yard stare. You are a flea. You don't exist. It's a power look--kind of alpha dominate, intimidate.

It's very humiliating to be the object of such a look particularly when the other person does have power over you--e.g., a gun pointed at you. Particularly when they are completely in the wrong--as in this case. Lest you think this is a minor thing--having one's house searched by weapon wielding, rude enforcers--try to imagine it happening to you for a moment.

They made his brother get on his knees.

I imagine that the sense of powerlessness would be chilling. Especially after the kinds of things Iraqis have been through.

The contempt towards you and your basic dignity would cause anyone to become intensely angry.

I think they train law enforcement to have this look and I wonder if that dead look is the look the soldiers gave to Salam's family.

What it's starting to sound like is that Iraq has become one big ghetto where Iraqis are African Americans or Chicanos and the soldiers have become the LAPD in the worst of times...And of course it is worse than this because there is no very clearly defined rule of law governing the soldiers' behavior. So Iraqis must feel even less secure--It is unclear that there is any redress for injustices done to them. The idea is: You could be a criminal so we will treat you like a criminal. The constant reminder that you have no rights and no power.

In your own country.

I'm not of the belief that there are these 'bad people' out there who create situations like this one. I.e., that if we just had more well-brought up young men in the army or if Americans were not 'arrogant,' etc. things like this wouldn't happen.

I think situations where some people have inappropriate power over others and fear of the retaliation of the weaker (e.g., ghettos, occupations, guerilla wars) creates these forms of cruelty. Sure there are some people who can keep their humanity even in dehumanizing situations but those people are rare.

The U.S. needs to bring in other countries and the U.N. Somehow Iraqis need to be given more power.

The threat of harm is real. I'm sure the soldiers must be scared. But just like cops I don't think danger and fear exempts one from respecting human rights. If one man is dangerous this cannot give you the right to shoot 5 harmless men just to get the dangerous one.

Still, even with rules, there can be no 'nice' occupations I think we must now conclude.

Childhood Memory #2: We Wanted To Get Sick

We always wanted to get sick. Who knows why. The attention? Getting out of school? Some untapped death wish.

So people said not to eat things off the floor or you'd get sick. We would throw our candy on the grimiest floor and eat it in the hopes we'd get sick. We'd sit in ice cold water and then run around naked in the wintertime. I remember once eating tobacco and drinking dishwashing liquid. I almost never got sick and had to fake it most of the time.

Injury was almost as good. No one was more envied than the girl in the cast. We hoped for danger and disaster. I remember there was an exposed wire on a neighbor's doorbell. We'd go and touch the wire. Then we realized we could pass the current down a chain of bodies. The length of the chain could be increased if we all got wet first.

Somehow we survived.

I remember my father being on an unpleasant phone call of some kind. I wanted to distract him. I threw myself from a bike (not mine) onto the concrete in the hopes of breaking a bone. My bones seemed to be made of steel. I didn't break any bones until post-college.

It was great though. I got out of work.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Childhood Memory #1: Gangs

'Member the whole 'gangs' thing? The obsession with gangs. The Bloods, the Crips. They were going to take over America or something. They were scary. They were a threat to a civilized nation. Big ol' deal.

I can't remember why they were such a big deal. I guess they promulgated crime by selling drugs and crime and drugs are bad.

Of course I can come up with some kindsa conspiracy reasons like: You make it out that all the youth of color are in gangs and then when the cops and courts do bad things to those kids and their neighborhoods decline and all the rest it just looks like 'the jungle' got them. And no one but themselves to blame.

But I remember never being scared of gangs because we had lots of little gangs in my grade school and those were the kinds of kids I knew that would end up being in the big gangs. They aspired to gang-dom. I think later on the Bloods and Crips came to my town and recruited out of the little gangs but these were little unfamous gangs like the 11th Ave. Locos and the 9th Street Raza. They gave each other little jailhouse tatoos after school. Little crosses with rays of light shining out of them. They were way into sniffing glue out of tube socks. Of course they got stoned but everybody in my school did.

I remember hearing that one of the nicest kids in my fifth grade class--Orlando--ended up on death row. I don't know if that's true. But I do remember that one of the smartest kids--Mario Ruiz--ended up getting shot in the back by some gangbanger at a party in high school.

Maybe later they grew up to be scary. I'm not sure. They weren't scary in grade school, though. It's like when you have slumber parties with someone and then later see them covered with tatoos with two big vatos in a station wagon wearing bandanas then when you hear stories about certain types of people you think: Wait. Those people--they were like Angela or Ernest.

Who knows where they all are now. I hope not in prison. What I remember is that it started out as kids and fashion-chollo fashion. I guess the last time I saw everyone it was still at that stage of the game. I always dream of writing a book about what happened to everyone from my grammar school.

It's the perfect illustration that what determines what happens to you is who your parents are. The kids who went to college were kids whose parents went to college. The kids who ended up working in car washes were the kids whose parents worked in car washes. We were all roughly the same intelligence--some of these kids were the 'smart' kids. But after a certain point that didn't matter anymore.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

10 Things That Make Hormonally Challenged Pregnant Girls Cry

10. Dancing chicken man (see below)

9. Green polyester dress from childhood.

8. People being kind.

7. People being unkind.

6. Old Navajo man with eyepatch lurching across street.

5. Very, very old lady with spots all over walking so sloooowwwwllly down street on hot day.

4. Horrible stories in news. Any story in news.

3. Watch found in pocket from two weeks ago. Realization that two weeks have passed I'll never get back again.

2. Yucky blinds in apartment.

1. Father still complaining about wedding ceremony.

Monday, August 25, 2003

This vision haunts me...

He dances there on the side of the wide boulevard as cars speed past. It's 109 degrees farenheit. The sign says 'Le Peep' and 'Honk If You're Hungry'...The face is a chicken face on a heavy, hot mask. He dances forward and back with some chicken like movements. Some sort of wing flaps with the elbows and slight hops with the feet. His arms are brown. It's almost pleasant to watch him were it not for the realization it's the hottest summer the desert has seen in years. He's not unenthusiastic as a dancer. I do think that our pleasure might change to horror if we could see the expression on his face, the look in his eyes.

I keep imagining the manager demonstrating the funky chicken to him. This is a place where even the people who take the tickets in parking garages have air conditioning in their little booths.

I wasn't sure what to do to acknowledge his efforts--wave? Become a customer? Boycott the restaurant forever?
America: Land of Attitude Totalitarianism

Perhaps it isn't only here where people trumpet the false connection between hard work and wealth, success. Or mention the suffering in bla bla place to shut you up when you are realizing your life might be: work, sleep, work, sleep and then death and this bothers you.

But one thing you better NOT have a bad attitude about is your unborn child--if you're planning to keep it that is. If you are the woman carrying it. If you are the man, it's perfectly fine to be ambivalent. But mommies aren't supposed to be ambivalent.

I think there is something that should be told to every young girl constantly--starting around the age of seven or so: It sucks to be a mommy.

I do believe that telling girls especially that it sucks to be a mommy would reduce teen pregnancy rates and probably therapy rates as well. One of the main things therapists seem interested in is the failings of parents. The idea is: parents are supposed to be like this... but your parents weren't they were like this (disinterested or neglectful or too protective or selfish and cruel in some way). Some parents are real horrors but sometimes what we fail to acknowledge is: It sucks to be a mommy. How could anyone ever do the things that are expected of mothers? It's virtually impossible for any human being to be that perfect.

I say this as a prospective mommy. Honestly, it feels like I'm saying I torture kitties for fun. Mommy guilt. But on the other hand just the idea of being the mommy we are supposed to be makes me want to barf.

So instead my husband and I have conversations like:

--B-b-but (sob) everything d-d-dies...babies die...the world is full of things that die.
--Babies don't die very much! Our baby won't die.
--Yes it will! It will grow up and become old and DIE. Everything that is good in the world v-v-vanishes and disappears as if it never was. Even the universe is going to die.
--OK...I guess I can't argue with that.

It suddenly dawned on me that being a good parent will involve concealing my true views and emotions on life for about 18 years or so or perhaps longer. Good parenthood in my case means a complete facade of cheer. How can I keep it up?

It might depend a little on the particular baby.

In any case, I have begun to wonder: Why do people have children? Really?

I love this friend of mine from college. She says that she always tries to find out whether the women she talks to hate being mothers as much as her. (Of course she loves her son but she hates being a mother.) She thinks they must be lying.

If you are one of those who hasn't procreated and is considering it: Watch this space. Will it really be all the crap people tell you? They always say: "It's so great!" You can believe that I will reveal whether it sucks and how bad.

Maybe it is really great...maybe. But when you think about it: Who would tell you otherwise?

Who Are The Normal People?

I've never met them. I know not one single normal person. I don't believe I've met the vaunted normal happy person we are supposed to become. I can't think of anyone. They always look normal until you get to know them.