I get a weird feeling these days. If a little knowledge is dangerous, a lifetime of learning is goddamned catastrophic. And so nothing gives me so much pleasure as doing business with old men. The survival of an intelligent, ethical man into old age is the testament of civilization.
Just the other day I'm working a conference and the gent I'm working with is shooting the breeze with an old fellow in a cap that says Ketchikan Alaska on it. Already I like him. And there are certain things that can be communicated in a moment or two, eyeball to eyeball or palm to palm. Yes, there are still good men left. But we're quiet, and that's the tragedy.
I've been thinking about the old slogan 'silence = death', and used it with some cheek yesterday against an old gay friend who decided to tell those against gay marriage to shut the fuck up. I didn't feel particularly happy about it, but it had to be said. A lot of unpleasant things have to be said, and it seems that it's up to men like me to say them. What's odd is that it doesn't change what is real, just our ability to deal with what is real publicly. What's worse is that so many lack the judgment and experience to tell whether or not somebody like me is just being a prick. Yesterday I had doubts myself.
Perhaps because it was I was being doubly aggravating. Stowe Boyd retweeted somebody saying, microblog style, that sometimes it's worth being gay just to annoy Republicans. To which I had to respond in the reverse, sometimes it's worth being Republican just to annoy gays - and it certainly is. But nobody tends to believe that old queers can take it, that they can just dish it in victimized frustration. I'm the one that's frustrated. Live and let live is what I say, but that doesn't apply if you're gay, or black, or Republican. Except that I should capitalize Gay and Black because they are not so much identities as political identities. The fact that we don't capitalize them shows the blurriness of our thinking and inability to recognize the difference between being and doing. Everything, it seems, is argued ad hominem because everyone, it seems, is trying to be loved. Doing something, to be loved. Say that slowly and realize how people struggle to achieve a state of grace, a retirement threshold after which you *are* something by acclamation. And so there is a political struggle, work and doing, to designate 'gay' as a state of grace, after the foolishness that granted the doublespeak of colorblindness that false honor.
All this makes me an angry white male, in spirit. I'm sick of it. It's moral pollution and it is making me choke and sputter. Some days I just can't breathe properly - I have to get away to where the air is clear of that awful cloying desire to eliminate the need to be constantly pleasant.
This morning's DVR breakfast showed me a banquet of rampage. Sports fans gone violent in the anonymity of the crowd. Crowds turned mobs from one isolated act of stupidity. Police march authoritatively to disperse the whole mobs, noobs and naifs dragged along in the stampede. It doesn't take much to wipe out civility. All you need are bored individuals to stand up for a simple idea - fans, not performers, not analysts, nor anyone involved in the material production of that thing in question. You don't have to be light in the loafers to defend those who are. You don't have to suffer Joe Orton's misery to enjoy the spectacle of the play. You merely have to pay attention and be sympathetic. Our social politics are a mob of sympathy and our political leaders only point out the affronting storefronts. We gladly smash and grab through the glass of civility at the manniquins of propriety. Everything is ad hominem. If this is democracy, perhaps we need something else. Maybe a vacation in darkest, frigid Alaska where nobody ever gets drunk enough to flash their tits in the middle of the street and cause a panic.
I want to be cold. Coldly rational and slow down the banter. Allow me to be warm in my personality and love you for your company. Allow me to strike and parry coldly at the thought balloon above your head. I know the difference between you and the idea in possession of you. I learned as a sophomore in 1976, but already the Bicentennial murals had the black hand shaking the white hand implying everything without words - no thought balloons to wrestle with. Just skin meaning. Like tribal conjugation. Like a sweat lodge jury, as if everything could be negotiated through physical proximity alone.
You may as well be silent if you cannot debate properly.
You may as well be dead if none of your words can challenge.
I don't have to tell you what STFU means. It means that we are at the end of our rope and so we are prepared to hang separately. It means I cannot stand your presence and that I can teach you nothing. It means you do not deserve the light of what guides me and it cannot be added to your own. And that may be a failure of patience, which can always be forgiven. But it might be a failure of empathy which spells nothing less than doom. Even the tortured are asked to talk.
I don't like our politics, primarily because the overwhelming majority of it is petty, and the consequential ends of our contributions are not consistently applied through the ends of power. There's a giant spin cycle in the middle of our every government whose centrifugal forces flatten the nuance of public debate into partisan plastic. And that nonsense is hostile to our capacity as citizens to think and speak aloud those things which are in our mutual benefit. We're complex individuals dammit! And we must wrestle with unpleasant matters in sophisticated ways that do respect to our capacities. But today we snipe out of small political existential boxes.
Where are we going? I know where I must go. I must have my science. And if I spend the rest of my life navigating the safe confines of the abstractly rational, I will have failed in courage. I will have failed my society. And so much of me desires to do just that, but I would then have a passive and cynical sense of humor in response to what I must interpret as social futility. That can only lead to alcohol or worse. Men in bars laugh loudest. But I'd rather be clear eyed and geniune, engaged with my people everywhere we speak the same language. Not metaphorically but English. I want everyone within earshot - webshot to know I'm still engaged. But that means I'm going to have to prick thought balloons. What does that make me?
Still compelled, I guess. And so I hope to live to be an old man.