Stompin' on the Terra

"And he said, 'Stomp upon the Terra.'" – Lord Buckley (via Hunter Thompson)

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Location: Plum Island, Massachusetts

12 June 2013

My One Vanity

The glory days: August 1982
And so, on the eve of my 25th college reunion, I make this confession: I'm not too bothered by the whole aging process (which is a good thing since there's not much one can do about it). I don't mind that I'm not as fit as I once was. I'm not bothered that I once could party like a rock star and still wake up for an early morning class/ski/surf, but now it just takes a couple of drinks to make me feel like I got hit by a train. And it doesn't really bother me that all the lovelies that parade before my media-saturated eyes are young enough to be my daughters.

But there is one fact of aging that I struggle with. One fact that stares me in the face each and every day and reminds me that time is marching on and we are, in fact, born to die, as Billy Shakespeare pointed out: my thinning hair.

I got a haircut yesterday and as I waited my turn, a young mother was trying to get her two-and-a-half-year-old son into the chair. He was having none of it and this kid was an unholy terror. He screamed. He clawed. He headbutted -- yes, headbutted -- his mother. All to avoid getting his mop top trimmed a bit. The mom finally gave up and followed as her kid ran out the barber shop door. I didn't strike out at anyone, but know that on the inside I was screaming just as loudly as that little kid as I got into the chair, but for a different reason. In my case, it was because there wasn't much hair left to cut.

Still full but getting darker:
At college in 1984-85
When I was younger, I would shake my head in the shower after shampooing and it wasn't until my hair was long enough to make loud slaps on the front of my face that I knew it was time for a haircut. Now, if there's even the slightest waver as I shake my head, I head for the barber.

Hair thins. It happens, I get it. Hell, many of my friends are way more folically challenged than I am. But what gets my goat is that I had a righteous mop of curly blond locks when I was a kid. My hair went darker -- it's now more of a light brown than a blond -- in my 20s and began disappearing (from the top and back first) in my 30s. It was in my mid-40s when I was sitting on a bench in my sister's foyer, bent over tying my shoes, that my seven-year-old niece strode over and with her index finger poked me on the scalp saying, "Uncle Luke! You're losing your hair!" I've never been closer to parricide (who knew that was the word for "killing a close relative"?!). That's when I knew I was on the downslide.

In recent years, whenever I would whine as loudly as that little kid in the barber shop about my thinning hair, my mother would remind me that I was taller than most people -- and pretty much all women -- so no one could tell how thin my hair was really getting. That didn't seem to deter my diminutive niece, though, dammit!

And now: June 2013. It's all
downhill from here.
My older brother is 10.5 years older than me and still has a full head of curly blond hair. My father is 42 years older than me and though he's always worn his hair in a thin buzz-cut, his hair remains thick as the bristles on a brush. Me, I'm hearing from friends that I should consider treatments like rogaine or some such silliness. Maybe I'm just being stubborn, but that's not my style. I'm going through and out of this life the way I came in: using the tools I was born with.

Some female friends have even suggested that when (not if) the time comes, I should consider shaving my hair off and going bald, that bald men are HOT. Besides the psychological trauma of seeing myself bald, I'm concerned about the damage, both physical and psychological, I'd do to other people who witnessed my gigantic melon (hat size 7-3/4…no fooling) glistening in the sun.

I guess, to coin a cliche I abhor, that it is what it is. My hair is going and I'm going with it. Eventually. That fact is the one and only thing that reminds me I will shuffle off this mortal coil someday. My thinning hair is my one vanity, the one unalterable fact that makes my knees buckle and makes me growl at mirrors and barbers, much like the little boy I still feel myself in every other way to be.

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11 June 2013

Shame On Me

Remember back in 2008 when some of the wingnuts in our country (and there were/are a lot of 'em) were touting Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama as a "Manchurian candidate." Their teabag-inspired fears were that Obama was a plant, a mole who was going to destroy America from the inside, all to benefit some nefarious entity: Al Queda, China, evil Communism.

Imagine my surprise when, five years later, we find out that those wingnuts were right: Obama WAS a Manchurian candidate. For the Republican Party.

Think about it: what Obama has done are all Republican wet dreams. He's continued our military adventures (and spending), he's expanded surveillance of our own citizens, he's ramped up Wall Street's dominance, he's done nothing about the gun violence within our borders. And he's done it in the same name that his predecessor used: national security.

Even the one thing that has Republicans really up in arms -- Obamacare -- is really just a benefit for Corporate America at the expense of the general population: he's created a whole new market of customers for the insurance companies rather than, you know, doing something that would improve Americans' lives and make health-care affordable for most people.

Before my liberal friends start slamming me, remember that I voted for Obama twice -- and would again given the alternatives in both elections (and for that, my conservative friends will now start slamming me). But think about it: how many of those "I'm not Bush" campaign promises Obama made have not only been ignored they've actually been completely overturned and Bush's policies not only continued but expanded?

Guantanamo Bay? Still open. Banks too big to fail? Wall Street still calls the shots and not one person has ever been indicted for any of the wrongdoing that caused worldwide economic turmoil. We still have troops on the ground in Afghanistan and how long will it be until we have troops in Syria? Suspension of habeus corpus? Ask those in Guantanamo or those who've been killed by drone strikes with zero chance to address the charges against them.

And then there's the current hubbub about phone-tapping and data-mining being done by the National Security Agency (NSA), a continuation of a Patriot Act-started and Obama-continued practice ostensibly used to keep Americans safe. This week we got to hear Obama rationalize this domestic spying by saying, "I think it's important to recognize you can't have 100 percent security and also 100 percent privacy, and also zero inconvenience. We're going to have to make some choices as a society." That stands in stark contrast to the oft-cited Ben Franklin quote that says, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." As I wrote on Facebook: I'll take Ben's side on this topic -- or any other debate with Barack Obama.

To which many of my friends replied: well, Ben didn't live in this day and age. He couldn't know what we're facing now. And that's true. But I'm also reminded of reading the news in the '90s about some Muslim whacko named Osama bin Laden who declared that he was going to make sure Americans lived in fear on a daily basis as his people did. And here we are in 2013, more than a decade removed from the events of 9/11, and guess what? Bin Laden won. Every time you take your shoes off at the airport, he wins. Every time you allow SWAT troops to storm your house without a warrant because they're looking for one 19-year-old kid accused of setting of a bomb in Boston, Bin Laden wins. And when we allow the government to tap our phones and monitor our online activity, Bin Laden wins.

"Well, if you're not doing anything wrong you have nothing to be afraid of," is the counter -- which sounds a lot like something Joseph Goebbels would have spouted. And I'm sorry, but I don't want to go through life fearing every potential boogeyman that the military-industrial complex foists upon us. Does giving away your freedom -- freedoms that our forefathers fought and died for more than 200 years ago for this exact (if differently implemented) reason -- actually make you feel safer? Are you THAT afraid of everyone and everything that doesn't look/think/act like you do?

And how should an honest American who feels the government is violating the Constitution and breaking the law react? Edward Snowden continued a long line of honored whistleblowers this week by outing the NSA program and was swiftly labeled a traitor by so many in power. How did Obama respond? He hasn't said yet, but remember when candidate Obama in 2008 said that whistleblowers' "acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled"? In 2013, the Justice Department is quickly drawing up charges against Edward Snowden so they can seek extradition from wherever he's hiding out right now, a not-so-subtle shift in half a decade.

What's entertaining in all of this is watching Obama's apologists fall all over themselves to justify the program -- when just a few years ago they were screaming for Bush's head for the exact same activity. I'm sorry, but criminal activity is criminal activity, no matter which party is initiating it.

Obama came to power promising hope and change. And in 2008, for the first time in my adult life, I was actually optimistic that we could solve some of the grave challenges facing our country and world via the political process. In his first term, he squandered the bully pulpit he'd been granted by trying to make nice with an opposition party that had zero intention of doing anything that might remotely be perceived as having positive consequences. And now, in his second term, we're realizing that Obama is really just the continuation of the eight years we had under George W. Bush. The policies are the same. The rationale is the same. Are we really so surprised that the outcome is the same?

"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." Consider me shamed, Barack Obama. That you make Bush and Nixon seem legitimate, and that you've destroyed any hope so many of us had, is your greatest failure.

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