I Wanna Know What Love (of America) Is

One can’t be surprised that Rudy Giuliani goes out and makes some asinine comments about the President, and double-downs on the asinine-ness in trying to explain them away. It has been the only real means he’s gotten any attention for years, saying something provocative so people will talk about him, trying to still coast on the image of “America’s Mayor” from 9/11, surviving on the support of people who refuse to read the post-attack investigations that showed how many times he chose wrong in preparing NYC for an inevitable attack.
But he goes after Obama for a supposed lack of “Love of America”. Whatever the hell that means. In the context of what Giuliani says, it means having a different philosophy on how to move forward than Giuliani, or any of the Republicans who flash the flag as a means of distracting from the actual political actions they take.
It means their view of military action as the ultimate answer to foreign policy is right, anyone who thinks different is surrendering. It means claiming that America has by far the best healthcare system in the world is right, any anyone who cites the actual data and looks to counties with better systems for solutions are socialist bastards bent on destroying our economy. It means that since 1964, race relations would be fair and level if it weren’t for the problems African-Americans bring on themselves, and anyone who acknowledges that African-Americans are perceived as “less American” that whites, or that there are less opportunities to advance to that same population and wants to try to fix them, is a race baiter, looking for America to fall in a race war.
No, none of those are signs of people who hate America, who want to see it go away, who wants to harm the citizens. It is, indeed, different from the love Giuliani and his supporters. The question is, what is the real difference?
When we are kids, we love our parents, unconditionally. When we are grown up, most of us are lucky to still love our parents and have a better relationship than when we were younger. But the nature of that love is quite different.
As a kid, one’s dad or mom can do anything. Arguments erupt in schoolyards over whose dad is better than whose. My dad can beat up your dad. Oh, yeah, my dad can dunk a basketball standing still? Oh, yeah, my dad can jump so high he stands on the rim when he dunks. And so on, and so on. And as kids, we say these things out of an innate love for our parents. But there is no basis in facts. In fact, as kids, we ignore anything empirical that might tarnish our superhero parental image, calling those who dare bring that up crap-head or some other creative curse.
As adults though, we can see our parents’ faults. Some you just accept. Oh, that’s just how Mom is. Some might be a matter of contention. But when we love our parents as adults, we do it fully recognizing the areas where they fall short. We may even appreciate more the things they were able to do even with their faults.
Obama has repeatedly mentioned in his books and in speeches about the opportunities the United States provided him as the son of a single mother. He’s talked about the promise of America, how it has acted as a beacon for nations and peoples around the world. But he’s also mentioned where America has stumbled, where the deeds have fallen short of the words of her promise. How the echo of 400 years of racist policy still affects people’s day-to-day lives, how not everyone is born with the same opportunity as everyone else, how we are a prosperous nation that is an outlier in making people go without proper medical attention.
To say those things is not to hate America, but to love America and want to see it live up to its potential. To recognize that like everything else in the world, nothing is perfect, but we should keep striving to be better and better.
The alternative is to pretend that America is the most awesomest nation in all things. America, as a country, is better than your country. America can beat up your country. America cannot only dunk a basketball, but jumps so high that it stands on the rim when it does so. That when faced with the data that shows our health system ranked in the mid20s in many major categories, to give the rhetorical equivalent of “Nuh-uh! Shut Up! America is the bestest!” That’s the behavior that Giuliani and his supporters want to see.
That is still a love of America. But it isn’t a very useful one. If we don’t stop and assess what is wrong, beyond the fact that there are politicians who disagree with us so they must be evil, we cannot get better. We will not improve. We will, in fact, atrophy, because as long as we stay in place and the rest of the world adapts and changes and moves ahead, we’ll just fall behind.
So, unlike Giuliani, we shouldn’t turn the tables and say that it’s really him that doesn’t love America. We need to recognize how much he really does, just as a 5-year-old loves his dad. And if you don’t agree with him, well, you’re just a poopy-head.

Changing Course

As I’m getting older, it is getting harder and harder to change course in life. This may simply be me facing the laws of physics – as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten a touch bit heavier, so there is more momentum carrying me in the direction I’ve been going, more work that is needed to slow down or change course. And as one of the things I want to make changes to is diet and exercise, which would bring that weight down, there is a bit of an irony there. And I normally like irony, but this one pisses me off.
To make a change, I’ve found that I really need to be conscious of the change I’m trying to make. I mean, actively conscious of it. Let’s take the diet thing. I know what is healthy and not, what is loaded with calories and what will work to fill me up without packing on the middle tire. I’m a chef, it’s part of my job to know that. However, it is also my job to taste things, so fasting pretty much means not doing my job. And it often means bowls of French fries and pieces of cheese and all the goodness that I love just lying around within arms reach.
So, I can make the decision to make a change. I can spend a couple days off trying to clean things up around the apartment, make an eating plan that will work without starving myself, and generally psych myself up for it all.
And then I go to work. And I have to think about the plan. The plan, the plan, the plan. As I’m working the pass during lunch, there is a bowl of fries pretty much right under my nose. Don’t eat the fries, don’t eat the fries, don’t eat the fries. It runs over and over in my head, and I manage to not touch them. Until something distracts me. And when that looping record, “Don’t eat the fries!”, stops, a few seconds later I often find my mouth full of fries.
But this isn’t really about a diet. This is about making a change. Or a lot of changes. Sure, diet is part of it for me. But it is the pattern of extreme concentration and not allowing myself to be distracted to get these things done. From what I’ve learned in therapy, my mixture of depression, anxiety and a very introverted personality is not the best combination to charge forward and maintain that. It is more like building myself up to charge, starting the charge, and when the first hiccup hits, retreating to regather myself and replan. I’m a great planner, not so great executing the battle plan.
Which brings me back to this. Not just this piece, but what I’ve been wanting to do with this website. I used to write and read. I used to do it a lot, many years ago. In college, there was a point where I was taking 3 PoliSci and 2 history classes (which is all reading and writing), working at the Michigan Daily, and still reading a fiction book a week (generally a Tom Clancy-type political thriller) and write screenplays and fan fiction.
But writing is a muscle, and mine has atrophied something fierce, barely able to put together a sentence that I can live with (rereading what I have so far is making me wince). I once ran the Baltimore Marathon, but don’t run now, and physically, it is like I haven’t run before. I have to get going, put in the work to get going again.
I suspect writing works the same way. At least I hope that it does. Because while the ability to write has gotten weak, the desire is still there. Essay ideas, jokes, stories – this one could make a good short story, this one a screenplay, this one an actual play – they fill the gaps in my head when I’m not working on the day-to-day duties I have to keep up with.
An essay a day. Maybe a couple paragraphs, a few pages, whatever I can do. That’s my idea of how to get back into writing. To clear the clutter of ideas and thoughts out of my head and putting it somewhere. That’s why I named this blog as I did. It’s something I think I should be able to do. “Think” is a key word there, as I laid out the issues I’ve had getting going on these things.
Because there is one bit of information to keep in mind… this blog is the Matrix. It has been here before, I’ve written some form of this essay and posted it. This was a New Year’s resolution, and here we are nearing the end of February. I had a WordPress issue shortly after that early January post (my first one didn’t happen right on the first as planned… another sign that I’ve had issues getting this off of the ground), so I had to start over after 2 entries. And by start over, I mean rebuild the site (15 minutes) and then sit around for 7 weeks or so thinking, “hey, I should do something about that.”
So, here we are. Talking about it. But talk isn’t really worth anything. Heck, all of this isn’t worth the paper it is written on, which is even less than when we actually used paper to write on,. I can make this promise to myself, I can make it out to the universe (which in this form is the couple of people who might stumble across this), but until I do something about it I’m just full of shit. And I hate when people think that of me. Time to get the hell off my ass, go get on my ass in front of my computer, my tablet, my phone, whichever means I have to contribute for the day, and do something about it.
So, here we go….