“Time to Man up, Fellows” By Parker Menkin

It’s not a fun time to be a man right now, what with all the terrible behavior being revealed by #MeToo. It’s even worse if you understand that we deserve all those bad feelings and more. So. Much. More. We deserve it because we’ve behaved horribly, whether we’ve perpetrated the awfulness ourselves or told victims we don’t care about what’s happened to them.

Last week, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford went before the Senate Judicial committee to testify about her allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape her when she was 15 and he was 17. The whole thing was an avalanche of awfulness that included from a fairly detailed recounting of a sexual assault, a bunch of old men cowardly hiding behind the skirts of a woman brought in to do their dirty work and, finally, the realization that the Republican members of the Judicial committee and a not-insignificant portion of Americans don’t really care that a man who may well have committed a sexual assault could be elevated to the highest court in the land.

Right about now, you may be thinking, “What does this have to do with me? I don’t know anyone who’s been sexually assaulted/harassed.” I hate to break it to you, but you’re wrong. You do, they’re just not willing to tell you about it. And, I’m not talking about acquaintances, either. I mean, spouses, children, other family members, close friends, etc.  Think about that for a minute. People who are as close to you as it is possible to be are dealing with awful, demeaning, traumatic experiences and they’ve never mentioned it to you. Why do you think that might be?

Maybe, just maybe, it’s because you’ve given them a good reason not to. Now, you’re probably thinking, “What!? How did I do that?” You did it when asked what a rape victim was wearing/how much she had to drink beforehand/what she was doing in that part of town in the first place. You did it when you said someone who reported that they’d been assaulted was a liar because they waited (sometimes months, sometimes years) before coming forward. You did it when you said that someone telling the story of how they’d been assaulted had an agenda, that they were out to smear a good man’s name. You did it when you asked tried to dismiss victims by intimating that false accusations of sexual assault were a bigger problem than assault itself. Basically, you did by being a douche bag. Instead of wondering why they don’t trust you, you should be wondering why they continue to allow you into their life at all.

Like I said in the opening sentence, it’s not a fun time to be a man right now. But, know this: the way you’re feeling right now is nothing compared to the way people who have been victimized sexually feel.  It is, at most, a tiny clouded window into what those folks live with every day. And, as a man, you should be looking for ways to lessen that awfulness for them, not doubling down on it so your side “wins”. To put it bluntly, man up and stop being a douche bag.

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The Tone Police

I think it’s safe to say that, right now, public discourse isn’t at its loftiest point in our history. Up until last week, I told myself that things could certainly be worse, saying “Hey, no one’s taken a stick to a colleague on the Senate floor while a compatriot pulled a pistol to keep everyone else at bay. That’s something, right?” But, I’m not sure I can hold onto that slim strand of hope much longer.

Last Thursday, a man with a long-standing grudge against Annapolis, Maryland’s Capital Gazette newspaper walked into their office and opened fire on the staff, killing five and wounding two. You might be wondering why I would bring up mass murder in a discussion about public discourse. I get that, killing a whole slew of people in one go is pretty much the opposite of talking. In another world, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to bring up mass murder in a discussion about the community’s rhetoric. But, we don’t live in another world, we live in the “Trump-side Down“: A world where a thrice-divorced reality show huckster who said he’s never felt the need to ask God’s forgiveness and has paid hush money to an adult film actress over an affair that occurred a few months after his current wife had given birth to their son enjoys such massive support from evangelical Christians that they elect to the highest office in the land. Meanwhile, a devoted husband and father who has repeatedly demonstrated his faith through his actions is reviled by these same people as a “secret Muslim” who is mounting an assault on Christianity. Y’all know these folks make Jesus cry, right?

If the way Obama was treated while 45 is embraced isn’t enough proof that we live in a parallel universe where everything is twisted and warped, check this out: Thursday evening, on AC360, Anderson Cooper replayed a previously taped interview with two survivors of the shooting. In it, reporter Selene San Felice, said, “But I’m gonna need more than a couple days of news coverage and some thoughts and prayers because it’s — our whole lives have been shattered. And so, thanks for your prayers, but I couldn’t give a f*ck about them if there’s nothing else.” Whether by mistake or by design, they didn’t censor San Felice and the expletive came thru loud and clear. In the normal world, the only way to respond to that is the way Cooper did: with sympathy and grace. However, in the “Trump-side Down”, it seems that tone-policing is an appropriate response.

I say that because, Friday morning, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fl) tweeted:

“Sign of our times… the F word is now routinely used in news stories, tweets, etc. It’s not even F*** anymore. Who made that decision?

Wow. Let me see if I understand what’s being said here: In the aftermath of a mass shooting that left five people dead and 2 wounded, Senator Waterboy is upset by the “F” word? I don’t know about you guys, but I can think of a lot of words that are worse than “f–k”, like murder, racism, famine and a whole bunch more. But, I suppose it is nice to know where Marco’s priorities lie.

Now, the cynic in me thinks that this really about all Rubio can say,  what with bought and paid for by the NRA. But, my idealistic side says that, rather than just making snarky comments, I should try and look at things from Marco’s point of view. I don’t know, maybe “F***” is worse than I think. So, let’s do a little research, shall we?

As a word, the “f” bomb has been around for a long time. The first attested usage dates to 1475 in a poem by some English friars (although it does appear earlier in a couple of names). It is probably a cognate of some Germanic words that have a sexual connotation. Or, it may derive from an Old French word that means “to f…” well, you know. Originally, it referred only to having sex and it’s hard to tell when it lost that happy association and picked up some of the more unpleasant and offensive meanings it has today. But, even with all its negative associations, when stacked up against violent death, bigotry, and hunger, “f**k” just doesn’t seem that bad to me.

Of course, Rubio isn’t the only person to use this approach. All of our social media feeds are full of “Trumpies” calling for civility now that everyone else has had enough of their crap and started giving it back. Sorry, snowflakes, that genie is out of the bottle and it ain’t going back in. Deal with it.

 

 

 

Family Matters

As you may have noticed over the last few days, it’s been rather difficult to turn on a news program without hearing about the White House’s latest policy debacle, the separation of families attempting to cross our southern border. This was a fairly big story before, but it really came to dominate the headlines last Thursday when Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited the Bible to justify the administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, setting off a crapstorm of negative press coverage.

Things haven’t gone well for Sessions in the wake of that comment, as people across the country have called him out about it. Even his own United Methodist Church (Sessions is a member) has condemned both the policy and the AG’s statement, saying “To argue that these policies are consistent with Christian teaching is unsound, a flawed interpretation, and a shocking violation of the spirit of the Gospel.” So, the UMC, a group that has been locked in a fractious debate over the status of people who are LGBTQ+ for years, thought one of their own member’s policy/statement was so bad it was worth putting all that aside and coming together to denounce it? Oh, I’ll bet that stings.

It’s not just Sessions who’s feeling the heat, though; the entire Trump administration is catching it. Of course, that’s due in part to their total ineptitude when it comes to governing. And, never has their incompetence been clearer than in the responses from various administration officials. Over the weekend, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tweeted, “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.” Yet, back in May, chief of staff John Kelly said that tearing kids away from their parents would be a “tough deterrent” and wouldn’t call it cruel. And, the president himself has gone on record multiple times about the policy, usually to blame Democrats for this heinous practice. Of course, I’ve already told you about Sessions’ views on the subject. And, in line with her boss and the AG, Mouth of Sauron White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “It’s the law, and that’s what the law states.” Compared to these people, the Keystone Kops are the picture of competence.

On-air personalities at Fox News (aka Department of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda) have been working hard to counter all the bad press and “inform” us about the “reality” of the situation. Tucker Carlson claims that public outrage over the policy has been ginned up by “the ruling elite” to accelerate “the collapse of the American family”. Co-host of Fox and Friends and ventriloquist-dummy-come-to-life Steve Doocy said that we’re not seeing concentration camps with cages for children, but “great, big warehouse facility where they built walls out of chain link fences.” And, last but certainly not least, Laura Ingraham told us that these detention centers “are essentially summer camps”. While the comments from Doocy and Ingraham are mind-numbingly stupid, they were a welcome change from Carlson’s dog-whistle-racism-conspiracy-theory-bs. Something we hear all too often from the fine folks at Fox.

I will end this: One of the goals of this zero-tolerance policy (the brainchild of human-rat hybrid Stephen Miller) is reducing the number of people seeking asylum. And, it’s working. I heard a news report this morning about an interview with a Honduran woman at the border who was reconsidering her decision to attempt a crossing and request asylum. Think about that for a moment: our government has created an environment that is less attractive than the horrific violence occurring in her homeland. So, have we made America great again? Because I don’t think I can’t take much more of this “winning”.

What I’ve Learned in 57 Years

Well, my friends, I had another birthday this week. And, as the title of this missive indicates, this one marks 57 years on the planet. My father taught me from a very young age that I had a responsibility to give back to my community and in an effort to do just that, every year I compile a list of all the things I’ve learned over the course of my life and share it with those closest to me. And, by “those closest to me”, I mean “anyone willing to click on a link”. And, this year, readers of The Betafiles get the benefit of my accumulated wisdom. Do you people know just how lucky you are?

Buckle up, kids. Here we go:

  • While you have to age, you don’t have to get old. “Age” is the chronological record of how long you’ve been alive. “Old” is a way of thinking; a mindset, if you will. You can be that old guy standing on his porch, yelling, “Get off my lawn!” or you can be that amazingly cool lady who’s been places and seen things and loves sharing those experiences with other, younger folks who haven’t. It’s your choice.
  • There is nothing like being greeted by a dog that hasn’t seen you in while. It doesn’t matter whether you were gone 5 days or 5 minutes, a dog is always ecstatic when they see you again. That is a level of gratification cat lovers will never know. And, I feel sorry for them.
  • Saying “I’m not a racist, but…” is a good sign that you might actually be a racist Or, at the very least, that you’re about to say some racist crap. If that phrase ever crosses your lips, you might want to reconsider what you’re about to say.
  • That every time I think it’s impossible for Lord Dampnut (anagram of “Donald Trump”) to make things worse, he finds a way to do just that. Like ticking off Canada. Seriously, how do you make the nicest, most polite people on the planet angry?
  • Adulting is like a dog going to the vet. At first, you’re all excited about it. Then, you realize what all it entails and you’re like, “Oh crap, this is what they meant?!?”
  • The American Revolution was born in taverns in a time when people drank a lot. Which means the idea for this country quite possibly sprang into being when Thomas Jefferson had one too many told the rest of the Founding Fathers, “Hey, y’all. Watch this!”
  • A group of giraffes is called a tower. There, that’s something you know now.
  • Being a grandfather is awesome. It’s all of the fun and none of the responsibility! If I’d known just how great it is, I’d have skipped being a dad and gone straight to granddad. Yes, I know it doesn’t work that way. But, it should.
  • That giving up certain things may add years to my life. But, it may not add life to my years. Once, I gave up caffeine because someone told me I might live ten years longer. Of course, giving up caffeine meant giving up coffee. But I did it, and it was the worst thirty minutes of my life. At the end of that span, I decided those years wouldn’t be worth living without coffee, so I took to that delicacy again. With gusto.

Of course, that’s just a portion of what I’ve picked up in journey up this five-terraced summit. There’s more, but I’m hanging on to that until I see what you people do with these bits. Until the next time, nerds!

Butt Hurt White People

I realize that may be a shocking title for some of you, but I really can’t think of any other way to describe the phenomenon I’m writing about today. You all know who I’m talking about, though. We’ve all seen them, loudly voicing their support for Trump, the Second Amendment, and making America “great” again. And, most recently, railing against an imaginary double standard after Roseanne Barr posted an ugly comment on Twitter.

Okay, a little background for those of you living under a rock: Tuesday morning, Roseanne Barr went on a little Twitter rant, railing against liberals, tossing out conspiracy theories, saying Chelsea Clinton married a Soros (combining two right-wing bogey… people?), and best of all, smearing former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett as a radical Muslim and, wait for it, an ape. Good times.

Before we go any further, let me take a minute here to address the press way reported this story. Early on, several outlets ran with headlines that referred to what Barr said as “racially charged”. Let’s get one thing straight: “racially charged” is a garbage word. I can’t find a definition of the phrase on any dictionary site in which I have any confidence. But, that’s not the worst part; it’s also incredibly ambiguous. Calling what Barr said “racially charged” implies that there’s some gray area about whether her comment was racist. Believe me when I tell you that there is nothing “gray” about a white person calling a black person an “ape”. That slur has a long and inglorious history and it’s well past time it was retired.

Okay, back to the matter at hand. Barr, in what appears to be a rare moment of lucidity, must have realized just how bad her comment was. She quickly apologized and said she was “leaving Twitter”. If she was trying to head off any negative consequences, it didn’t work because ABC cancelled her show that same day.

Roseanne’s self-imposed Twitter exile was short-lived, though. She was back on a few hours later, asking fans not to defend the comment and blaming it on Ambien. And, by that evening, she was retweeting supportive messages from right-wing fan base and talking about fighting the cancellation. So much for conservative self-awareness.

Barr has had no shortage of people trumpeting their support for her in the aftermath of this disgusting, yet completely in-character escapade (for more on that, check out this Vox article). A Google search of the subject reveals everything from people not seeming to understand the racist nature of the “ape” comment to others employing the grade school tactic of “But, _____ did it first!”, posting photo-shopped images of Whoopi Goldberg at the 2017 Women’s March and whining that Bill Maher called 45 a “gorilla” and is still on the air. To be fair, Maher’s show should have been pulled. Not because he was rude to Trump, but for blatant animal cruelty. I mean, what could gorillas have done to deserve that comparison?

In what can only be termed an “interesting” development, the right-wing Outrage Brigade gained a new target for their ire during a recent episode of TBS’ “Full Frontal” when Samantha Bee said to Ivanka Trump,

“Do something about your dad’s immigration policies, you feckless c__t! He listens to you! Put on something tight and low-cut and tell your father to f___in’ stop it.”

What makes this interesting is that conservatives were more upset about the “c-word” than Bee’s reference to Trump’s creepy infatuation with his daughter. I’ve been wondering if they were so incensed by “feckless c__t” that they didn’t notice it or if this just one more thing they’re willing to let slide in their hero. The more I think about it, though, the less I want an answer.

Of course, conservatives jumped on this with both feet and continue to pound away even after Bee and TBS apologized. The White House has even gotten in on the act, with Mouth of Sauron Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders calling the comment “vile and vicious”. Right, and standing before the country and giving cover to a serial abuser and pathological liar is doing the Lord’s work. Nice one, Sarah.

For the record, I’m not telling women they shouldn’t be offended by Bee’s use of the “c-word” in reference to Ivanka. As a man, that’s not my place. But, I am saying that if you’re a Trump supporter, you should probably shut up about it. After the way you people used that word on Hillary during the campaign, your “outrage” has about as much credibility as a tweet from the unhinged Oompa Loompa currently occupying the White House.

Look, the bottom line here isn’t that a show right-wingers love got cancelled. It’s not that the press repeatedly refuses to call out racism even when something is plainly racist. It’s not even that some white people in this country have some how convinced themselves that they’re being persecuted. The real bottom line is that a lot of white people all butt hurt because they can’t spew racist garbage with impunity anymore. When you ignorant gits finally grasp this concept, things will get better for everyone. Until then, you might want to follow the advice of Mark Twain and keep your mouth shut and just appear stupid instead of opening it and removing all doubt.

 

 

 

ADHD and Me

Recently, I read an article that said 6.7% of Americans suffer from depression. A year ago, I would’ve said, “No, that’s too much. 22 million people? No way that many folks are depressed.” But, I’ve been hanging out with comedians for the past year and now I’m like, “Yeah, that sounds about right.” If anything, it sounds kind of low. Y’all might not now this, but comedians and depression go together like tacos and Tuesdays. In fact, I know some could make Ellen Degeneres start cutting.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like the more depressed you are, the funnier you are. And, dabbling in comedy the way that I do, I’m a little worried. Why? Because I’m not depressed. Now, understand that when I say “depressed”, I’m not talking about “feeling low” depressed, I mean “constantly contemplating suicide” depressed. I’m not going to say I never think about killing myself, because I do. It usually happens while I’m talking to my ex-wife. There are no words to explain why a conversation with this woman is so bad; to be truly understood, it must be experienced. The closest I can come is that it’s like walking up to a stranger and paying them to punch you in your nether regions. Repeatedly.

Not depressed doesn’t mean I’m not broken, though. I’m severely messed up, just in a different way. You see, I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The DSM V defines ADHD as “A persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development”. On a side note, DSM stands for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and unless you work in the mental health field. Knowing that, not to mention the current edition, isn’t a good thing.

You might think that means I can’t concentrate very well. And, you’d be right… most of the time. But every now and then, I have a laser-like focus. Unfortunately, it tends to be on things that aren’t productive, like Wikipedia. I can read that junk for hours and hours. But, even then, I can get distracted.  Let’s say I’m reading an entry about the Rubik’s cube and the next thing I know, I’m down the rabbit hole looking at an article about Roland the Farter, flatulist and jester to King Henry II of England. In case you’re wondering, a flatulist is exactly what you think: “an entertainer (sometimes considered a comedian) whose routine consists solely or primarily of passing gas in a creative, musical, or amusing manner”. Don’t get hung up by the question of how someone who farts on stage is anything other than a comedian, just know that it’s as hilarious as it sounds.

And, reading is just the beginning of the distraction train. Once it leaves the station, it takes me to YouTube. Why? Because you have to see if there are any videos about a guy who farts for a living. There are, including several by Roland’s artistic heir, Mr. Methane. And, you should watch every one of them.

If you think a host of farting videos should be able hold my attention, you are, oh so wrong. ADHD is so insidiously powerful that it can overwhelm even the most juvenile humor. Basically, I’ll watch for a few minutes and then get pulled away by something in the sidebar. And, not even something good, either, it’s always something ridiculous (why are cat videos so riveting?). And, before you know it, I’m getting down to Disco Star Wars. And, yes, there is a disco version of the Star Wars soundtrack. If you didn’t know that, don’t call yourself a Star Wars fan, you poser.

So, why am I telling you this? Mostly, I’m playing on your sympathy for some gratuitous laughs by exposing this contemptuously pitiful existence I call my “life”. Wow, I’m more depressed than I thought. Hooray, comedy is not outside my grasp after all!

What the Hell America?

Today’s essay was supposed to be about my incredulity at America’s obsession with the royal wedding. But, that fell by the wayside when news broke of yet another school shooting. I’m not going into detail about it; by now, you should know the particulars well enough to make that a waste of time. But, saying the situation is dire is an understatement on the order of calling the World War I a “minor kerfuffle”. If you don’t think so, listen to what Santa Fe student Paige Curry told a reporter who asked why she wasn’t surprised when the attack happened: “It’s been happening everywhere. I’ve always felt it would eventually happen here too.” Did you get that? Kids aren’t even surprised anymore when someone walks into their school with a gun and murders their classmates.

After you finished wiping away the tears that comment brought on, you probably wondered how we can stop living this nightmare. You might also have wondered why we still haven’t enacted some common-sense gun control laws by now. It’s a good question, but I think we all know why: The NRA has spent a lot of time and effort to keep that from occurring. And, by “spent a lot of time and effort”, I mean, “bought a lot of politicians”.

That situation has led to several… interesting ideas being floated to protect our kids. And, as none include curtailing wholesale access to firearms that is the norm in this country, there are some impressive mental gymnastics involved. Here is the best/worst of what I found:

  • Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick believes the problem is that our schools have too many doors. At a press conference on Friday, Patrick told reporters, “We may have to look at the design of our schools moving forward and retrofitting schools that are already built. And what I mean by that is there are too many entrances and too many exits to our more than 8,000 campuses in Texas.” And, he said it out loud. Where people could hear.
  • According to Fox’s Sean Hannity, schools should monitor their students’ social media feeds because quite a few shooters have made disturbing posts in the days leading up to their attack. Why, that makes perfect sense! I mean, it’s not like teachers and administrators are already overworked and our schools are woefully underfunded or anything. Someone should tell Sean that the average high school student population in the U. S. is right around 750. That means his proposal would force some poor schmuck to scroll through 750 teenage social media feeds every You might think that sounds good until you remember that the Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.
  • Here’s another one from Dan Patrick: school shootings happen because, wait for it, abortion. Speaking with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week”, Patrick said, “George, should we be surprised in this nation? We have devalued life, whether it’s through abortion, whether it’s the breakup of families, through violent movies, and particularly violent video games, which now outsell movies and music.” Yes, I realize he also mentioned movies and video games. But, those are old news. Abortion, though? First time I’ve heard that one.
  • President Trump (I throw up in my mouth every time I say that) didn’t offer any suggestions to prevent school violence and that may be a good thing. We are talking about the guy who thinks trade wars are good and that we should build a border wall while the rest of our infrastructure crumbles around us. Unfortunately, he wasn’t silent on the matter. As details began to emerge, he tweeted, “School shooting in Texas. Early reports not looking good. God bless all!” I have no words.
  • Not to be outdone by his conservative brethren, incoming NRA president Oliver North blamed school shootings on Ritalin. North told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace that “We’re trying like the dickens to treat the symptoms without treating the disease. And the disease in this case isn’t the Second Amendment. The disease is youngsters who are steeped in a culture of violence. They’ve been drugged in many cases. Nearly all of these perpetrators are male. … Many of these young boys have been on Ritalin since they were in kindergarten.” You know, Ollie, I had more respect for you when you were selling arms to our enemies. At least then, you didn’t say stuff as stupid as this. (Huffington Post)
  • Let’s end this list the way we started: with some more of Dan Patrick’s verbal diarrhea. On the same show where he dropped that abortion gem, Patrick told George Stephanopoulos that the Second Amendment “talks about a well-run militia … our teachers are part of that well-run militia.” A “well-run militia”, really? It’s a “well-regulated militia”, Dan. How about you just shut up. You’re giving English majors a bad name.

So, have you got a concussion from all that face-palming? A bruised forehead from banging your head on your desk? Do you need to buy a new computer because you punched your screen in frustration at the abject stupidity of the people we’ve either elected to lead us or that we allow into our homes to inform us? If so, that’s a good thing because it means you haven’t completely given up and still have some capacity for outrage. Don’t worry, though, it’s long time till November. That means there’s plenty of time for these bucketheads to crush that out of you. And, if they don’t, there’s always the ineptitude of the Democrats to help them out. You’re welcome, friends.