Thursday, August 17, 2006

Right Wing Wacko or Liberal Wiener?

Whenever the question of politics arises in polite (or semi-polite) conversation,
I find myself sighing under my breath and keeping quiet. Because no matter what the issue, I can usually find something to disagree with just about anyone at any time.

It's not that I'm ornery, or itching to argue; I just have to think things through before I sign on to a position. This can be pretty inconvenient for someone who follows party lines.

I must be a centrist, moderate, whatever you want to call it. Because when my good liberal friends talk about how it's our military and foreign policy that are responsible for terrorism - I buck and refute. And when my conservative colleagues at work talk about what a great president we have - I groan and refute.

I guess labels are important, because I've been called a bunch of them over the years. My views on certain issues have certainly changed drastically as I've grown up, but I hope my heart hasn't hardened beyond the point of reason.

Here's a silly, slightly embellished, but basically true story, of encountering a bunch of goofy naked apes.

I was in Africa, at a photo-tourist camp, having dinner with a bunch of older folks who just happened to be from Berkeley. Our esteemed driver mentioned to them that I had voted for George W. Bush. (It wasn't true, but I think the driver made the assumption based on our discussions about Iraq.)

The dinner conversation exploded into rants such as "I can't believe you would vote for that mad man." "You've got to get your facts straight." "You are like many ignorant Americans." etc. etc. I sat quietly and didn't say much, after all I was technically working - getting paid to shoot wild life in Africa, I didn't need to jabber with a bunch of hippies pushing 70 about world affairs. Yet their rants continued even in the face of my silence.

"I am so ashamed of being an American these days. It's so embarrassing."

That was the last straw. "I couldn't agree more." I chimed in. They sat in shock at my sudden response, for about a nano-second. Then they carried on with their politico speak, oblivious to my jab.

Things settled down for awhile, and civility returned to the conversation. But later that night around the boma (camp fire) the drinks flowed and the attacks continued, culminating with the words "idiot" and "moron" being thrown in my direction.

I finally had to speak up saying to the effect "Look, I respect all of your opinions, it's clear you don't respect mine. It's okay though, I'm used to it. I'm from Berkeley remember?" This remark was outwardly ignored, but it seemed to have a chilling effect on the group conversation.

But one lady in particular kept screeching at me, and yes, yelling at me, not so much intentionally - but the booze ratcheted up her voice volume.

I couldn't help myself, and baited her for the next two hours, with little jabs like. "Just keep yelling, you might convince me." "Well, nothing that screaming won't fix". etc. Even her nutty friends tried to calm her down, since I was almost placid and she was the one being a shrill you-know-what.

The next evening I was ignored by the entire party in a fashion similar to social behavior in junior high. I didn't mind though, the camp managers, a lovely south African couple, still treated me and my producer to an evening of good conversation and food.

I did almost choke on my Kudu (antelope) when one of the Berkeley folks, a man named Victor, chimed in with "Excuse me, I have an animal question..." in a goofy lilt. "Do you call a group of Mongooses, Mongeese?" The driver and I shot each other a look. Yep, we agreed silently, idiots.

"Mongeese" became a running joke of the trip. After sitting with lions for hours, one of us would say quietly "Excuse me, I have an animal question..." culminating in an absolutely filthy scenario involving animal sex and mongeese.

This was yet another time in life when I found that the best remedy to closed minds was laughter.

(By the way, when Victor found out that he was eating Kudu antelope, he just about had a fit. "I can't believe I'm eating one of those beautiful animals!" Another running joke on the trip.)

I'm not sure what the point of all this is, but I felt like writing while my video project renders.

I guess I'm just trying to say, that right wing wacko or liberal wiener - whatever my views are; I've got to always ready to listen as best I can without getting personal if I can help it. It may not be possible sometimes, but I've got to do my best.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


As the father of a two year old girl who is as innocent as she is beautiful, I can't help but worry. Worry about her future, worry about the dark and often cruel world that she will - in far too few years, become aware of.

Frequently my worries dwell on that most insidious and vile excuse for a human being, the school bully. He or she us found at every level of schooling, public and private. Whether by fists or words (which can be the most harmful) the bully preys on the gentle and the kind. The bully is reprehensible, a true manifestation of evil as far as evil goes without actually murdering or maiming (at least most of the time).

I was a target throughout my school days, but I made it through relatively unscathed physically or mentally by simple avoidance. I got beat up in third grade (body slammed into concrete) and though traumatic, I bounced back quickly. My broken collar bone healed fast, and my spirit was undeterred.

I must have faith that whatever trials my angel faces, she too will be able to withstand the trauma of small minded brutes. I can only teach her what I was taught, that respect, love and kindness are the best things to put forward in this world. That anger and fear will only rot away at the soul. We should feel pity for the wretched we encounter, and not let anger fester in our hearts.

Don't get me wrong. Sometimes, the bully needs to get his nose bloodied. Witness our world today. But in day to day life, we as fellow humans must pick our battles very carefully. 999 times out of 1000, it's just not worth it.

In the day to day, I find that the bullies still exist in the adult world, more genteel, but no less angry inside. Whether it's the woman barking over my shoulder at the salesclerk, or the man on the phone who cuts me off and flips me the bird; I really try to laugh at them - they are pathetic.

And most of all, I really search for the good people out there. A smile and a pleasant remark go a long way, even in Los Angeles. Not a flippant and insincere "Have a nice day." but a genuine word or act of kindness, is a rejuvenating jolt to the heart.

After the aforementioned cutting off and bird flipping, the perpetrator roared off and ran a red light. I sat there at the intersection, steaming at the bully. A lady in a beat up Honda pulled up a long side. I glanced over. "Now that is a fool!" she said with a smile and a shake of the head. A wave of relief and gratefulness washed over me. I returned the smile and we chatted briefly but heartily about jackass drivers, culminating in a good laugh before driving away with grins and waves.

The world has a lot more people like that lady than like the cell phone bird flipper, and that is what I must pass on to my daughter. The bullies will always be there, but they will never win. Not as long as most of us take the road of love and understanding.

(And the one in a thousand kick to the groin.)

Friday, August 04, 2006

A response...

Recently in my e-mail group of buddies (that I have known for 20+ years) the proverbial hornets nest was kicked over the issue of the war in Iraq. Most of us being from Berkeley, you can guess where the majority firmly sits. Here is my response to the question "Was the invasion of Iraq worth it?" I held off from responding to them directly, it pains my heart too much to get them angry at me. Maybe they'll stumble across this in a few months when passions have cooled.

As Winona Ryder said in "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut"


Things do indeed look bleak. I concur with Allen that it will be up to the Iraqis to take it from here, at a certain point they're going to have to be willing to fight and die for freedom, if they are to have any chance at a future.

The liberation of Iraq. Was it worth it? Who knows...only time will tell.

But I fear that history has already shown what needs to happen for a lasting peace. In the big picture, Iraq is only the beginning.

This will not end with negotiation, diplomacy, etc. These islamo-facists, like the nazi's before them, want all Jews dead. Period. Plus as an extra bonus, with an equal passion, they also want all Americans dead. Dead, dead, dead. There is no grey area.

There is no trade policy, no settlement, no financial compensation that will change this fact. They are here to kill us, whether we watch Fox or PBS, it makes zero difference to them. If we support or hate Israel, they don't care. If we send money to Hamas, they don't care. They'll take the money and still try to kill as many Americans as they can. Withdraw from Iraq? Yeah, we saw how well withdrawing worked for Israel. Vote for Hillary? That and 50 cents will still get your throat slit.

I think many in this country simply cannot wrap their brains around this basic truth. Ten percent of the Muslim world is out for blood, with a ferocity that matches the worst of the nazis. The majority of the remaining Muslim population is complicit in the manner of the majority of Europe in WW2. Their religion has been hijacked, and they don't seem to care.

These facts are required starting points for any and all coherent discussion regarding the middle east. Recognize first, that we are dealing with an enemy that can't be reasoned with, an enemy that will not stop until they either rule the world or are wiped out. What we do, short of killing enough of them, will have ultimately no effect on their desire to kill us.

The idea that Bush lied kids died, blood for oil, all that junior high shit, I'm afraid will mean less than nothing at the end of the day. Just like the appeasers in Hitlers day, "if only we hadn't been so harsh on them in the treaty of Versailles" it's nonsense. If we were to leave the middle east tomorrow, we would still be the great satan. They would still be coming for us.

Lord knows our country is far from perfect, but I don't for the life of me understand how we can devote so much passion to fighting amongst ourselves instead of uniting against the real enemy. If the Neville Chamberlins of this country would take ten percent of their self-loathing energy and actually put it towards supporting the troops (Israeli and US) AND their mission, we might actually have a chance at doing some real damage to the ones who want to kill us.