An explosion of sales! We drop bombs of value onto your shopping village! A shock and awe campaign of savings!
A bit extreme, isn’t it? I know. But pretty much, these are the messages we’re being bombarded with in our holiday sales ads. And I’m staring at the television screen, or listening to the car radio slack jawed, and wondering, “What the front door does shopping have to do at all with honoring our soldiers fallen in the field of battle?” A whimsical part of my thinking takes me to dead Vikings breathing their last while the Valkyries descend upon them from the heavens with cash registers. Instead of taking them to Valhalla, they are instead whisked away to Macy’s.
What is wrong with our culture when we allow our collective intelligence and sensibilities to be so taken for granted? When did we allow the merchants to dictate to us our priorities? An excellent documentary, The Century of the Self, explains a lot as to why America was intentionally transformed from an economy based upon saving one’s earnings to one based upon spending them as rapidly as accrued, mad consumerism.
We say (tout under the same war banners even) that we are a nation based upon Christian ideals and values, but are we? Really? I’m not a believer, but I have read the Bible – a good percentage of it – and the only time Jesus reportedly lost his shit was when he saw that the merchants and money lenders were taking priority over the Holy. As I said, I’m no believer, but if one thing is indeed sacred to me, it’s the deaths of our soldiers, airmen, seamen and marines who died fighting for what they believed to be the preservation and safety of this nation.
I would hope that their honored sacrifices were for the core values, the ideals of the forefathers, and the promise of America to be the beacon of humanity, its innate optimism of being the country behind a positive evolution of mankind, and not for the bargains of merchandise brought down from a price that was already too high before the sale.
Seriously, there is something very, very wrong with the entire concept of a Memorial Day sale. If it was just about barbeque grills and discounts on travel, then this I could probably be okay with, as it would be applicable to what the holiday activities entail, families getting together to remember their fallen loved ones. But for department stores, clothing and, for goodness knows, all else?
Hey, maybe it’s just me. But it just feels wrong.
In the old days, back in the time of pay phones, when large and influential groups were displeased with a product, or even the contents of subject matter of a television show, (even though these groups may have been conservative and restrictive in their innately non-American ideals) there would be large boycotts of that product until the merchants or networks would have to capitulate and change their course, either pulling the product or improving it.
Who should be shopping on Memorial Day? Maybe if I put it like this: After a funeral, if you were to then go on a buying spree, then you are the one who should be out and about hunting for that bargain.
Let’s honor our fallen by respecting the value of their costs. Our self-indulgences (though part of this illusion of freedom) should not be about what new athletic shoes we can purchase.
Especially when, chances are, those shoes weren’t even made with American hands. Especially when, chances are, American livelihoods were disenfranchised because that corporation took those jobs from our soil to be made in another country for a profit, at the expense (pun intended) of the same Americans who will now be overpaying for them.
I doubt any of our fallen military would have given their lives for a disenfranchised middle class so oblivious to the fact that they are eating their own, that they’d be so deceived as to allow themselves to spend their hard earned (very hard earned) money on inflated goods taken from their own manufacturing hands to be sold back to them at some illusory bargain from another country where our corporations decided to plant the American flag for a profit without any care of the homelessness it would cause, or the despair and hopelessness resulting from our own citizenry who now had no means with which to earn a living.
Perhaps it’s easy for those still with their money to ignore such things because they aren’t experiencing it firsthand. For them, until the saturation of the software and tech industries reach its peak, (and it will, it has to) there is still disposable income. Perhaps for them, the idea of a fallen soldier is as cavalier as running water in the toilet or bidet, a quick wipe and it’s business as usual.
But that doesn’t sit with me. It should not with any of us. Not only should our ideals be held to a higher standard, so should the recognition of our fallen. And though it’s your American privilege to do so, if you’re one of those out shopping today, or have already gone, then you are in fact enabling this superficial and vapid system to thrive. Yes, you have the “right” to shop. You have the “right” to shop today. But this advantage is yours every day, isn’t it?
Why can’t today, be a time for quiet reflection on the horrors of war? Why can’t today be a time to consider how we allow ourselves to get into wars? Why can’t today be a time to hope that one day the very concept of war would be as appalling as rape, or incest, or pedophilia?
I hope that one day our Memorial celebrations will be about recalling a period when humanity was once short-sighted and primitive enough to sanction the now ancient concept of killing other humans, an archaic concept called: War.
The house reeks of old carpet and cat urine.
It was once a lovely place, plain to see, but definitely not now.
Not sure if I can breathe anymore, I am grateful for the second hand cigarette smoke billowing from my hosts, and oddly enough grateful for their company.
This roof over my head is better than nothing, I guess.
But then again, nothing doesn’t reek.
To my left, there was thankfully an open window and, with even greater gratitude, a screen on it. A humming bird, small and green, flittered on blurred wings over dark pink flowers that were petals opened towards the western sun.
My nostrils are stinging as if over some cage in some ill-maintained pet shop.
No drinking from the faucets of this place, the store bought water is closed tightly. It sits to my left on the dresser top that’s serving as a table for my laptop.
Despite my sadness, there is nostalgia here. There is precognition here.
My grandmother’s house had this scent, not so much the feline splatter as much as Chihuahua dog funk.
Full circle I’ve come. And I knew I would. There were nightmares.
It’s a hoarder’s house of empty soda cans, spots on the carpet you don’t dare stare too hard at, and piles of boxes, buckets and cans. Here reign very old lamps, and a very new television so out of place its ultra-real HD looks cartoonish.
The real high definition, in real life, is replete with olfactory stimulation, olfactory assault actually!
With pure intent, it is not with malice or contempt that this is written.
I should be grateful for it this night, for the next two, then it’s off to another friend’s place for several days.
Can I come back from this?
Does anyone ever come back?
At the risk of coming off incredibly more conceited than the title suggests, even from an early age, I was made to think there was a difference between me – and those telling me – that I was somehow unusual. Harry Potter has had it happen to him. You’ve had it happen to you. It’s probably something that happens to all academics. Most of us have had it said to us at least one point in our lives, by parents (not mine), or a teacher, or our best friends and lovers. My parents weren’t of that generation that even knew they were supposed to be the beacons of inspiration to their children. Fortunately, as I’ve hinted at earlier, it’s not always the parents that warm your heart or inspire your mind to achieve beyond the sum of all your parts. Mine left this type of motivation to the outside world, to the streets, to nature, to God, and (most importantly) Santa, all of whom somehow convincing me that I was special. Although the latter rarely showed up.
I was led to believe that I was one step before short yellow bus, and a little close to being a very touching ABC afterschool… special.
Yep. At one point I was certain (with some scientific method applied) that I was psychic, possessed innate elemental gifts, a whisperer to the four-legged, and that I had a unique place in the universe. As child of the 60’s, growing up in the 70’s, such deductions were gotten fairly. With all the mojo and hoo-doo of that age, how could I have not eventually come to this way of thinking? Still, even though most of those hippy-based hopes have waned since my innocence crashed in 2008, there are still glaring remnants of it behind my smile, staring back full in the mirror.
So at least once a week, sometimes even twice depending on any “disposable cash” – and I am speaking in relative terms her, because my ducats are not, by any stretch of the imagination, ‘disposable’. Truth, I should be mentally insane right now, as penny pinchy as Jack Benny, and only spending anything when it’s essential. And then only after Congressional oversight. With my ‘disposable’ change, comes the purchase of a lottery ticket.
Sometimes it’s Lotto. Mostly it’s Powerball and Mega Millions. Never have done Scratch though.
An even line between narcissistic delusions of grand entitlement and distracted hope, the numbers are either carefully conceived or calculated, occasionally picked randomly en route, or they are derived from objects with digits beyond the 7-Eleven window. Aware that it’s almost a one in a 300 million chance of winning if I play, all those numbers would be reduced to total zero if I do not. So with that cheap preschool number two pencil (sometimes bringing one of my own, sometimes putting the number two because it’s the type of pencil) my vanity is then indulged. With this minute scribbler comes an existential confidence that I’m somehow chosen by heaven to win. Size does not matter.
After that deed is done. I fantasize about what I would do if I woke up a Monday multimillionaire. Those who took me in when I had nowhere to go. Those who gifted me with a coat for the cold, the people and learning institution to whom I am in debt, I would thank them and the Academy. Where would I live? Would I build or just buy? Would I stay where it is too very often rainy and gray? Would I, mere hours later, ride out in that R8, the one that’s taunted me from behind that show window? A road trip? Orthodontic work? Electrolysis? Hair transplant? There would definitely be yoga and a gym membership in the plan.
The odds are astronomical. But so is life. The universe loves me. There’s magic in my bones.
But what about these poor, unfortunate souls who actually won? I would hope to have a bit more savvy than that. Still, that delusional narcissism is in here. It hints that I may one day be there, either through hard work or windfall.
The work has been hard! Today was the perfect day, me doing perfect thing. Stars are properly aligned – somewhere. I am set.
It is now the next day. And though it’s not the first thing done, having taken a walk out for some chai with a friend who’s letting me couch surf a bit, at last the Internet browser is engaged, the beach head of the lottery page invaded.
Scattered on the sands lay the torn remnants of red and white shredded tickets, the casualties of torn dreams. The cold slap in the face of surf and tide reminds, with a sobering wet, that neither life nor universe is fair. The screech of a gull frustrated that its paper and not mana, suggests that maybe it’s about impartiality.
Why even contribute to the “poor man’s tax?” The motivation is quite primitive. Playing feels like hope. Maybe there are even varying degrees of faith, a faith in chance, along with egocentric conviction in one’s own uniqueness.
My needs so few these days, any lottery jackpot would be more than enough to reach comfort in retirement. Phyllis Diller (rest in peace) said, during her 2006 with Home Media Magazine, “Now that I’m really old, I realize one of the things it takes a lot of money to buy is silence.”<source of quote>
After watching that interview, that statement always stuck with me. Growing through a loud, often socially challenging background, the silence of libraries with sunlight and lots of alpine foliage is what I’ve continuously coveted. The rain is gone at the moment. Gold from the sky, illuminates the green all around me. Mostly conifer, some deciduous, it’s a welcomed kind of green.
It’s time to go about my day, mindful of debt, my soul chastened, not a muggle, and certainly not in possession of any practical magic.
Forgive me Father for it has been nearly two months since my last BLOG post.
I have been to San Franciso, back to Seattle, to Pittsburgh, back to San Francisto, to Venice Beach, and now three hostels later, I am in San Diego.
The range of incredible people, with whom I have had the incredible opportunity to engage conversationally, exceeds my current ability to process and transcribe into words.
This past month has been on the edge of purgatory.
Where I go next week, that will determine which edge.
I’m looking at at least one hail Mary.