Sunday, June 25, 2006

I Married A Redneck

Opposites attract. It is a cliche' but no less a fact. My long and sordid sexual history is a testimony to this fact. Of all the varying women I have shared a bed with there's not one horror writing kickboxing existentialist in the bunch. And what could be more opposite than a brother like myself who has been accused of being a borderline black militant and a redneck Christian woman?

I was sitting at Red Robin a few months ago with my wife Christie, my friend Frank and his wife, when Christie began telling us a story about how her dad brought a goose home that was so big its wings touched both walls of the trailer they lived in. Then, as she continued telling us about being chased around the trailer by this goose, Frank gives me a look, a look I've seen many times since, "Dude, you married a redneck."
I think even then I knew, there were, after all, signs.

We had been dating less than a week when I got a call in the middle of the night saying that her bestfriend's mother was being abused by her boyfriend and that Christie was going to go to their house and get the guy drunk then drive him out to the middle of the desert and kick him out of the truck. I told her to let me handle it, which I did. Don't expect details. The next day she called me and asked me if I thought she was white trash because her bestfriend lived in a trailer park and had issues with domestic violence. On the whole the evening had been no different however than many nights back home on the streets of Philadelphia. The whole thing could have just as easily taken place in the ghetto as in the trailer park. The only difference was that the entire time we were driving around in her F150 with her friend we were listening to 80's glam metal. It was a black man's punishment in hell. So as she sat there concerned that I was going to look down on her because of her friends all I could think to say was, "I don't think you're white trash because your friend lives in a trailer park. I think you're white trash because of your musical taste." We laughed about it and the rest is history. I still can't stand her musical tastes though.

There was also the story of her brother and her best friend Tana fighting on the front lawn and Tana's shirt getting torn off and her father coming out and turning the hose on them to get them to calm down. Then there was the story of her father going out and shooting a rabbit and trying to pass it off as a turkey on thanksgiving. There was the fact that she had two donkeys when she was a kid named "Jack" and "Ass". I won't even discuss the fact that the biggest event in the town she grew up in was a holiday called "Mule Days". I really could not make this up folks. She barrel raced in the rodeo as a child and still dreams of being a country western singer. In fact, she's actually a pretty damned good singer. I seem to have some instinctive aversion to "twang" perhaps rooted in some deep genetic memory of my ancestors being whipped and hung by good ole boys with that same annoying twang in their voices. There's that militancy showing through again.

There are many more examples I could name. Did I mention that her Mom and Dad both have the same first name? Most of the stories she tells me tend to end with her getting drunk and kicking someone's ass. After I showed her how to drop a man with a leg kick she used the move first on her boss and then on her idiot brother. She dosn't drink anymore though. Like myself, she has mellowed with age and I am very much against alcohol so being with me pretty much requires you to be clean and sober. Still, there are stories I could tell you about my wife and her family that would make Jeff Foxworthy blush. I'll stay away from those however. You get my point. And it isn't worth sleeping alone tonight to drive it in further. Did I mention she has a cousin who was kicked in the neck by a horse?

So how does this bizarre sociological experiment work? Most days it's like living in some type of reality T.V. show with us both trying our best not to get voted off the island. When we drive together we listen to smooth Jazz or old Motown. It's the only thing we can both agree on. My idea of driving in the summertime is with the windows down and loud aggressive hip-hop music blasting for all the world to hear. Hers, is with the windows up, the A/C on full blast, and Shania Twain twanging out her country best. Barbecues present the same predicament. Her idea of a barbecue includes country music and beer. Mine is hip-hop and an ice-cold pitcher of Kool-Aide. I haven't seen one episode of Rap City since we've been together. Luckily we both enjoy self-depreciating humor so we can poke fun at one another's more stereo-typical behaviors without anyone getting their feelings hurt. I usually get the upper-hand in this since she embodies far more stereotypes than I do. After all, she has been to a Nascar race and maybe even a monster truck rally.

How it works is perhaps a lesson for society. We teach each other. We learn to understand each other. I help her to understand why Black people distrust cops and support affirmative action. She helps me to understand that not all White people are serial killers who talk like they were in a Richard Pryor skit and vote Republican. Whenever there's an issue that greatly affects the Black community that she doesn't get I explain it to her as calmly and patiently as I am able. I don't just assume she should understand. In doing so I begin to understand why White people don't understand many of the things that are so important to Black culture. I begin to understand why there is so much fear and mistrust between these Two cultures as a result of misunderstandings and honest ignorance. As I said before, there's no shame in ignorance. The shame is in remaining ignorant. The shame is in struggling to hold on to your ignorance by refusing to look at another's point of view or to entertain any evidence that contradicts your preconceived ideas. That's the type of ignorance that leads to racism.

So, yeah, I love my redneck wife. I love her country singing, horse riding, beer swilling ass. I hate her dimwitted little brother. But I love her mother and her step-father. I hate country music and Nascar and rodeos. But I love spending time with her just holding each other while the room darkens and day succumbs to night. We both love Motown music and both Black and Redneck comedy and Mixed Martial Arts competitions and boxing and sushi and barbecues and traveling and we both love each other and our daughter and my son and our unborn child and our long, long future together. Besides, it's kind of cool having a woman that is just as quick to kick ass as I am. Did i mention that she has an aunt named Clarence? I just couldn't make this stuff up.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Virtue of Ignorance

The first step in achieving true knowledge is admitting your own ignorance. When Socrates said "I am the wisest among men because I do not think I know what I do not know." He was making one of the most profound statements on the pursuit of knowledge. You cannot fill a vessel that is already full. Only an empty vessel has room for knowledge. Only a truly open mind.

When I use the term "empty vessel" I don't mean to imply a mind empty of all thought. I don't mean you have to be null and void before you can find truth. Ideas, opinions, theories, and hypothesis, are necessary to the pursuit of knowledge. Convictions on the other hand are a detriment to this pursuit. If you believe before you know and are committed to that belief you will NEVER know. Your belief has taken the place of knowledge. If you ask a question when you are already one hundred percent committed to a conclusion that question is then worthless, futile. No matter what the answer if it is not in accordance with the conclusions you have already reached you will reject it regardless of how much proof there is in support of that answer. Your vessel is already filled. No other possibilities, no other conclusions can fit.

The story of Galileo being sentenced to death and executed in effigy for saying the world revolves around the sun is the most famous example of this. More recent examples include the ban on homosexual marriage, the ban on the morning after pill, Bill Clinton's persecution for doing what most men have done at one time or another, the KKK and other white supremacist group's hatred of anything non-white, the Nation of Islam's hatred of anything White. All of these were inspired by religious convictions with no foundation in fact. They are prejudices born of faith. Someone who believes that God hates Jews will not change his views no matter how many nice Jews he meets. Someone who believes that God is against homosexuality will never allow gay marriage no matter how many studies you present showing that it will not have any negative impact on society. That's not the point, "God said it was evil!" Those who believe rather than reason are relieved of the burden of proof. Their beliefs are not based on proof so no amount of proof can refute them. They are not open to any other possibilities because they have their truth whether it is actually true or not.

Belief without evidence is a slippery slope. "Don't think. Believe!" To me contradicts the very definition of a human being. We were given these great big brains in order to allow us to answer questions and find true knowledge. Filling in the gaps between what we know and what we don't know with beliefs that we lend the same weight as knowledge ensures that true knowledge will have a hard time entering the believers mind. The believer will not search for it because he believes he has already found it. He will not accept it when it is brought to him if it contradicts what he already believes because he has committed himself to that belief.

Over and over again those who would rather believe than admit their ignorance point to something they call the "Unknowable", mysteries "That man is not meant to uncover." just a few hundred years ago molecular biology was unknowable, nuclear physics was unknowable, astrophysics were unknowable. We know these things now because scientists were not content with remaining ignorant, throwing up their hands and saying "That's just unknowable" or forming hypothesis, injecting them with faith, and calling them truths. They admitted that they did not know and then they went out in search of the knowledge they lacked. They went out in search of empirical evidence and lucky for us they found it. How much different would the world be if we took it on faith that demons caused illness and we prayed and casted spells instead of administering antibiotics? If we were already commited to this belief we would have never discovered viruses and bacterial infections and therefore never invented vaccines and atibiotics.

The virtue of ignorance is that it allows for knowledge. The evil of faith is that it does not. When you believe in your heart and soul that you know the answers you cease looking for those answers. Why would you search for something you already believe you have found? How can you fill a vessel that is already full?

When you hold a hypothesis you may want it to be true but you accept the possibility that it may be wrong. You are not committed to one conclusion or another until all the facts have been gathered. A hypothesis can be verified or refuted and changed based on new evidence. Hypothesis are not considered "Truth". Faith does not allow for refutation. Scientifically in order for a hypothesis to be true there has to be a circumstance under which it would be false. This allows for hypothesis to be proven or disproven. For instance if I had a hypothesis that a gasoline engine could run on water I could test that by pouring water into the engine. If the engine runs I'm right if it doesn't I'm wrong and I change my hypothesis to fit this new evidence. Faith allows for no circumstance under which the theories it espouses could be wrong. Faith does not even allow for them to be considered theories but only "Truth" with a capital "T".

The reality is that when it comes to creation and the existence or non-existence of a creator we just don't know. Anyone who says he does know is a liar or a fool. We don't know. There is no shame in admitting that we don't know. There is no dishonor in admitting our obvious ignorance. The dishonor is in resigning ourselves to remaining ignorant. Not just belief without evidence but belief against all contradictory evidence. That type of willful ignorance is a sin against all the potential within human nature. Ignorance that leads to the pursuit of knowledge is the very definition of what it means to be human and as such is the highest virtue.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Questions?

During a conversation on Maurice Broaddus's messageboard I was asked what question I would ask God that if answered would satisfy me. I'll answer that here, but I also wanted to ask you guys what questions you would ask God if given the opportunity? If you could spend ten minutes with the Supreme Being, the progenitor of creation, the author and architect of all that is, the first cause, what would you say?

If God were to come down from the heavens right now I guess the first logical question would be...

"Prove to me that you are God, the creator of the universe."

If he or she or it somehow managed that trick the next question would be...

"Which religion is the correct one? How are we supposed to live? What is the right path?"

And if he, she, or it was successful at answering that one the next one would be...

"Why is there so much pain and suffering in the world?"

Coupled with...

"Why are we all here? What is the purpose of life? Why did you create all of this?"

So what answers would I expect? What could God possibly say to me that would make all of this nonsense seem somehow less nonsensical, less cruel and tragic and absurd?

I guess I would like to know that all of this served some mutually benificial purpose. That we were not just here at the whim of some capricious megalomaniacal egotist/sociopath to fulfill his all-consuming need for aggrandizement. I would like to know that millions of innocent children worldwide didn't suffer and die for nothing. That it was for a better reason than God throwing a temper tantrum because the toy he created didn't do what he wanted it to do. I would want something better than "It ain't my fault. I just created you." which I feel is truly the most cowardly response I've ever heard and again, not something we would accept from anyone but God. If some terrestrial inventor tried to use the freewill argument for why one of his inventions went off and slaughtered a couple dozen people we probably wouldn't buy it. He'd be slapped with millions of dollars in civil suits and maybe even a few manslaughter charges for willfully negligent homocide.

"You mean you created something with the capacity for violence, gave it the emotions of rage, hatred, envy, lust, selfishness, and greed, gave it the power and moreover the will to assault, rape, and murder, yet you expect us to believe that you were surprised that it went out and killed people and that it isn't your fault because it has freewill? Um...lock his ass up please and throw away the damn key."

We tend to understand that the inventor is ultimately responsible for the actions of his or her invention right up until we start talking about God and then we suddenly absolve him of all responsibility and blame it all on the creation which did not author it's own nature. An answer like that wouldn't do it for me. I'd need to hear something with a little more integrity than that. If God said, "Hey, I did the best I could but I fucked up. My bad." I'd probably except that. I wouldn't worship his ass, but I'd except that answer. I'd except it a little more if he promised to make it up to me in the next life. Maybe by blessing me with a harem of twenty virgins like those Arab terrorists claim Allah is going to hook them up with for blowing up Christians, Jews, and Capitalists.

I would like to know that even the daily grind, the day to day struggle for the simple commodities of existence, food, clothing, shelter, water, at its end served some greater purpose, led us to some greater reward than the grave. That we were created for more than just to work, eat, shit, fuck, sleep, repeat. "Because I was bored" probably wouldn't cut it.

The reality is that life is a bitch and then we do die. So I would have a hard time singing the praises of any being that couldn't or wouldn't answer these simple questions. So what question would you ask? If you could ask the creator anything what would it be?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

A Generation of Pussies

What is happening to the American male? When did they become such pussies? Being surrounded by fighters I seem to have missed the vaginalization of the American Man. I somehow thought that men still took risks. That we still endured hardships with stoic resolve. That we still faced challenges with courage. That we still took the roll of protector provider seriously. That we were still ...uh... Men. Yet somewhere along the way men in America have turned into video-game playing, internet addicted, drug using, unemployed mamma's boys who look for women to take care of them, who don't know how to protect, provide or even please the average woman. Not all men are like this but enough to give the rest of us a really bad name. How did this happen and how do we stop it? I blame it on how the past two generations have been raised and it is only getting worse.

Kids today are coddled way too much. They get "time outs" instead of spankings. Getting "grounded" means no Playstation for a week. They aren't allowed to leave their parent's sight. They aren't allowed to play sports unless they are armored with enough padding to allow them to safely fall off a thirty story building. And then the organized sports they do get involved in don't keep score so that there are no losers and no one gets their feelings hurt. Kids don't have chores like raking the leaves, mowing the lawn, taking out the trash, pooper-scooping the yard, and washing the dinner dishes. Their chores are doing their homework and cleaning their own filthy rooms and sometimes not even that much. Teenagers don't get jobs anymore they expect their mommies and daddies to buy their designer do-hickeys. They may be the smartest generation yet, but they are the laziest and the weakest. They are less mature and more dependent than ever. They are emotional weaklings who panic at the thought of leaving the nest. I have heard it said that twenty-six is the new twenty-one. From what I have seen twenty-six is the new sixteen. And this cowardly immature generation of do-nothings are now having children and repeating the cycle all over again. Well, the women are having the children. Most of the men are off avoiding child support and trying to come up with some get-rich-quick scheme that will allow them to spend more time lying on the couch playing X-Box and less time working to support their families.

We are all to blame for this happening. Us and every idiot who ever wrote a self-help book. I've never been one for book burning but if we set every book written by guys like Dr. Phil to the torch that would certainly be a help. One generation of paranoid ineffectual parents turned to self-help books to get parenting advice and the world has never been the same. Now we are so terrified of emotionally scarring our kids that we overprotect them and turn them into the type of adults that fear just about everything that resembles a challenge, anything that might remotely be considered difficult. They all think they are going to be singers, pro-athletes, hip-hop stars, or the one criminal in a million who gets in and out of the game with millions in his pocket and his life intact.

The funny thing is that with all this ducking and dodging of responsibility, all of this looking for the easy way, they are actually making their lives more difficult. The men who are out there fathering baby after baby with many different women are fucking up their lives as much as they are fucking up the lives of those children and those wmen dumb enough to get involved with them. Those men who bounce from job to job living off women, their parents, the government, or hustlin' in the streets don't lead lives half as good as the men who work everyday to provide for their families. Their laziness damns them to lives of mediocrity. Their fear damns them. But this fear too is something we might be indoctrinating them too.

When I was a kid we played games like dodge ball and the ominously named "Kill The Man With The Ball" or "Smeer The Queer" depending on what neighborhood you were from. There was a game called "Suicide" that was a violent adaptation of handball or wall ball where if you missed the ball you had to run towards the wall as fast as you could and touch it before someone beaned you with the tennis ball. No one was ever seriously injured and we all had a great time. We played football on the street with no helmets or pads and there were lots of bruises and skinned knees and elbows but no broken bones, no one maimed or killed. Now they are trying to ban dodgeball from school because it is too dangerous. Too dangerous? These kids carry guns to school and dodgeball is too dangerous?

When I was a kid we fought. We fought almost everyday. We fought in the school yard. We fought after school. We fought on the street in our neighborhoods. We didn't shoot each other. We knuckled up and came from the shoulder not the pocket. WE took bruises to both our bodies and our egos but we got over it and moved on. Now a kid can be expelled from school for defending himself even if the other kid threw the first punch. Kids are so afraid of taking an ass-kicking that they'd rather pop a few rounds in you than take their lumps which I find ironic because they don't let you bring guns in jail but what they do have in there is a bunch of really big, really mean guys who do know how to fight. Brings to mind that old saying "Act like a pussy and you will get fucked." These cowards with the guns might be saving their asses from getting kicked but condemning them to punishment of a far more intrusive type. Better to take the ass-kicking in my book.

When I was a kid we rode bikes without helmets. We wanted to go outside and play rather than sit in the house watching TV or playing video games and we would roam the neighborhood playing until the sun set and the streetlights came on. We didn't have cell phones, pagers, and walkie talkies so that our parents could keep us under twenty-four hour surveillance. And some may say that times were different and there weren't as many child molesters and serial killers roaming the streets then but those people would be wrong. Violent crime has gone down since the seventies and eighties not increased. So why are we suddenly so damned paranoid? Don't blame it on a generation raised by single mothers because my Mom raised me by her self and so have generations and generations of Black women going all the way back to slavery when families were often sold away from each other. It's not that women are doing it alone it is that parents are just plain doing it wrong. They are afraid to obey their own common sense instincts and so they are raising young boys with no common sense. Young girls too, but it's the boys I'm most concerned with here.

When I was three and four years old we were left in the car all the time without airconditioning and we didn't die. We rolled the damn windows down. No one child proofed their homes. They let you burn your hand on the stove to teach you not to touch the damned thing again and if you broke something or touched something you weren't supposed to you got your ass whooped for it. We don't discipline our kids anymore or rather you don't. My kids get their asses whooped when they step out of line. That's why my son is on the honor roll, can cook and clean for himself, does mow the lawn and pooper-scoop and take out the trash (even if he does it at a maddeningly slow pace) and does clean the kitchen and wash the dishes after every meal even if he has to be reminded to do it. When he grows up he will not run from responsibility. He will not hide behind a gun when it comes time to stand up and fight like a man. He will not live like a parasite off the good-nature of some woman that loves him. He will be every bit the man his father is and much much more. He will not be some self-help guru's failed experiment like the kind of men that are now out there disappointing and ruining women for all other men. The kind of men who let their families starve because they are too lazy to get jobs. The kind of men who run from their responsibilities. He will be a real man in every sense of the word because I'll kick his god-damned ass if he's anything less. I ain't raising no generation of pussies.