Category Archives: commentary

The Darkest of the Coming Darkness

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Egghead  might be slightly batty.

I do not claim to be prescient.  But like any overly smart and perceptive person, I often see what’s going to happen before it happens.  Sometimes it is almost as eerie as a Vincent Price movie.  Sometimes eerier.  After all, on the 60’s Batman TV show, Price played the ridiculous villain Egghead, and was completely creepy while doing it, but still, you know… Egghead.

One thing that I have to predict about the coming darkness is about politics.  I mean, the current Republican administration, where it is decisions by all Republicans all the time, has become nothing more than a monster movie.  Not merely a bad monster movie, but a super-creepy-bad monster movie with a gigantic orange rubber rooster as the main monster.

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This is what the great orange rooster looks like in black and white.

The reason it is bad is because, basically, to become a member of the Republican Party’s elected elite, you basically have to have your heart removed.  Heartless, soulless monsters have a tendency to do things like take away Meals on Wheels for invalid seniors, health-care services from Planned Parenthood, and any hope of ever having affordable health insurance that actually pays for health care.

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                                                                          Senator Ted Cruz grinning about taking away Obamacare

And now, the monsters who have taken control of the theater are pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement because… well, apparently clean air isn’t good for decaying, desiccated monster skin and shriveled monster lungs that don’t breathe air anyway.

So here are my predictions for the coming darkness.

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What people like me will look like in the future.  That’s me in the middle.

I won’t live to see it.  My body is breaking down at age 60. My lungs are compromised by years of bronchitis and flu.  I am diabetic, so my very body chemistry is betraying me.  There is a family history of heart disease.  And I have already gone broke once on health care bills that the health insurance people really don’t pay for.  (They are in the business of collecting premiums, after all, not making people well.)

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What a lovely oxygen-free environment we will have!

As the climate changes take away large parts of our food production and resources, and the sea rises to take away land and major cities, people will be at war increasingly over diminishing resources vital to a population of seven billion souls.  Graveyards and unburied bodies will become a part of every monster-movie scene.

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Kiss me, Baby!

Love will become more complicated, because people who are selfless and put others before even their own life will die out first.  The heartless, selfish, and often stupid ones will have the best chance for survival because they put themselves ahead of everyone else, and so have an unfair advantage over those who are not content with mere survival and exhibit self-sacrificing love.

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You’ve never had a friend like me.  And I can always eat you later if need be.

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So, if you find my black-and-white monster movie post upsetting with the darknesses I am sincerely predicting, please remember, this is a satire post in a humor blog.  The way it is supposed to work is that you wake up to the factors that make it upsetting and decide to do something for yourself to change them.  Everybody doing a lot of the same little thing to make the world better can move mountains and fly to the moon.  Big things don’t happen without everybody taking a hand.  Maybe we can dream dreams once again and make some good things come true.

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Filed under angry rant, battling depression, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, horror movie, humor, monsters

Why Do You Think That? (Part Two)

In my short, sweet sixty years of life, I have probably seen more than my share of movies.  I have seen classic movies, black-and-white movies, cartoon movies, Humphrey Bogart movies, epic movies, science fiction movies, PeeWee Herman movies, Disney movies, Oscar-winning movies, and endless box-office stinkers.  But in all of that, one of the most undeniable threads of all is that movies make me cry.  In fact they make me cry so often it is a miracle that even a drop of moisture remains in my body.   I should be a dried-out husk by now.

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I wept horribly during this scene.  Did you?

And the thing is, people make fun of you when you cry at movies.  Especially cartoon movies like Scooby Doo on Zombie Island.  (But I claim I was laughing so hard it brought tears to my eyes.  That’s the truth, dear sister.  So stop laughing at me.)  But I would like to put forth another “Why do you think that?” notion.  People who cry while watching a movie are stronger and more powerful than the people who laugh at them for crying.  A self-serving thesis if ever there was one.

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Movies can make you cry if you have the ability to feel empathy.  We all know this.  Old Yeller is the story of a dog who endears himself to a prairie farm family, saves Travis’s life at one point, and then gets infected with rabies and has to be put down.  Dang! No dry eyes at the end of that one.  Because everyone has encountered a dog and loyal dog-love somewhere along the line.  And a ten-year-old dog is an old dog.  The dogs you knew as a child helped you deal with mortality because invariably, no matter how much you loved them, dogs demonstrate what it means to die.  Trixie and Scamper were both hit by cars.  Queenie, Grampa’s collie, died of old age.  Jiggs the Boston Terrier died of heat stroke one summer.  You remember the pain of loss, and the story brings it all back.

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Only psychopaths don’t feel empathy to some degree.  Think about how you would feel if you were watching Old Yeller and somebody you were watching with started laughing when Travis pulls the trigger on the shotgun.  Now, there’s a Stephen King sort of character.

But I think I can defend having lots of empathy as a reason for crying a river of tears during Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  You see, identifying with Quasimodo as the main character, hoping for what he hopes for, feeling like a monster and completely unloved, and fearing what he fears connect you to the story in ways that completely immerses you in the experience.  This is basically a monster movie.Original-Hunchback_of_Notre_Dame

But the film puts you inside the head of the malformed man, and you realize that he is not the monster.  Righteous Judge Frollo and the people who mistreat Quasimodo for his deformity of outward appearance are the real monsters.  If you don’t cry a river of tears because of this story, then you have not learned the essential truth of Quasimodo.  When we judge others harshly, we are really judging ourselves. In order to stop being monstrous, and be truly human, you must look inside the ugliness as Esmeralda does to see the heroic beauty inside others.  Sometimes the ideas themselves are so powerful they make me weep.  That’s when my sister and my wife look at me and shake their heads because tears are shooting out of me like a fountain, raining wetness two or three seats in every direction.  But I believe I am a wiser man, a more resolved man, and ultimately a better man because I was not afraid to let a movie make me cry.

The music also helps to tell the story in ways that move my very soul to tears.  Notice how the heroine walks the opposite way to the rest of the crowd.  As they sing of what they desire, what they ask God to grant, she asks for nothing for herself.  She shows empathy in every verse, asking only for help for others.  And she alone walks to the light from the stained glass window.  She alone is talking to God.

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Yes, I am not embarrassed by the fact that movies make me cry.   In fact, I should probably be proud that movies and stories and connections to other people, which they bring me, makes me feel it so deeply I cry.  Maybe I am a sissy and a wimp.  Maybe I deserved to be laughed at all those times for crying during the movie.  But, hey, I’ll take the laughter.  I am not above it.  I am trying to be a humorist after all.

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Filed under cartoon review, commentary, compassion, Disney, humor, insight, inspiration, movie review, music, philosophy, strange and wonderful ideas about life

How Mickey Battles the Blues

It should be noted that Mickey does not battle the St. Louis Blues.  That is his favorite hockey team.  And while they have never won the Stanley Cup, they do win a lot and are almost always in the playoffs.  So they help fight depression.  Battling them would not only be counter-productive, but might also result in losing all those big square white middle teeth in that goofy smile.

But battling depression is a constant necessity.  Not only am I subject to diabetic depression and Donald Trump overload, but my entire family is prone to deep and deadly bad blue funks.  It helps to be aware that there are a lot of ways to fight that old swamp of sadness. It doesn’t have to keep claiming the Atreyu’s horse of your soul.  (Yes, I know that Neverending Story metaphors seriously date me to the 80’s and signify that I am indeed old… another reason I have to constantly fight depression.)

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I have some surefire methods for battling depression that apparently the science actually backs up.  It turns out that most of things that Mickey does actually stimulate the brain to produce more dopamine.

“Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional response, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them.”  – Psychology Today

So, I guess I am secretly a dopamine addict.  It is a brain chemical you cannot focus or function effectively without.

  1. Being creative in some way fosters the production of dopamine in the old think-organ.  So writing this blog helps.  Doodling excessively helps.  Writing novels, painting pictures, drawing cartoons, and writing really remarkably bad poetry also help, and I do all of those things every week.
  2. Chicken Dancing helps.  Really.  Flapping your arms and wiggling your butt in such a stupidly silly way is aerobic exercise, and the very act of exercising increases not only dopamine but also serotonin and endorphin get a boost.  These are your “natural high” brain drugs.  Have you ever noticed chicken dancers are never really sad while dancing?  The ones crying excessively are either crying from happiness or extremely embarrassed teenagers forced to chicken dance by their goofy old dad.
  3. For more information about chicken dancing and its possible uses for evil, check out this link The Dancing Poultry Conspiracy Theory.  Because laughing about stuff is also a cure for depression.  It tends to even bypass dopamine and take a left turn through serotonin straight into the pleasure centers of the brain.
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  5. Winning streaks also help immensely.  Of course, I can’t always count on the St. Louis Blues to give me winning streaks.  X-Box EA Sports MVP Baseball 2004 set on the rookie difficulty level for the last decade helps with that.  I have won over 300 consecutive games including two World Series sweeps that way.  And Albert Pujols has hit over 1,000 home runs in his Mickian baseball career.
  6. Check lists also help because they are the same thing as winning streaks.  The sense of accomplishment you get from checking off boxes on your To-Do List also boosts dopamine in the same way.  So what if I am listing routine things like walking the dog, picking up socks, and taking out the trash?  A check mark is still a check mark and a check mark by any other name still smells like marker.
  7. And, of course, there is listening to music.  I am seriously addicted to classical music because every emotion from beautiful and awe-inspiring to butt-ugly brutal can be found somewhere in the works of the great composers. And don’t forget, Paul Simon, Don Henly, and Paul McCartney are in that category too.

8. And please, don’t forget food.  Depressed eating can easily make you fat, but there are certain magical chemicals in certain foods that give you certain dopamine-building effects that can turn blue skies to bright sunshine.  The primary chemical is called Tyrosine, and it can be found in a variety of foods like;

– Almonds

– Avocados

– Bananas

– Beef

– Chicken

– Chocolate

– Coffee

– Eggs

– Green Tea

– Milk

– Watermelon

– Yogurt

9.  And finally, thinking skills are critical.  While thinking too much and obsessing can get you into the tiger trap pits of depression, meditation, decompressive mantras and positive thinking can all dig you out and keep you out.

You are probably wondering what kind of nitwit authority I can actually bring to this topic, but I have spent a lot of money on therapy, not all of it for me, and I not only listen to psychiatrists and psychologists, but I remember what they explained to me.  And I have tried enough things to know what works.

So while you are busy chicken dancing to Beethoven while eating a banana, rest assured, Mickey is probably doing something just as embarrassingly ridiculous at the very same time.

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Fact or Opinion (It’s a Teacher Thing)

“Climate change is a hoax by the Chinese.” 

That, unfortunately, is not an opinion.  It is a fact.  It is a FALSE FACT.

Facts are statements that can be proven or disproven.  There are studies by government agencies and university science departments all over the world that provide evidence to back up the theory that the climate is drastically changing in ways that threaten our existence.  The studies are repeatable, peer reviewed, and thoroughly “vetted”, to use the new word that Republicans embrace so deeply and lovingly for immigration issues.  On the other side of the question, you have scoffing congressmen who bring snowballs into the capitol and say, “See?  The science is not proven.”   That is not a fact.   Where is the evidence which is not anecdotal and based on a misunderstanding of the difference between “climate change” and “weather change”?  That is by definition an opinion.  And it is not even an informed opinion.  Opinions are not equal to facts.  Comparing the two is like comparing apples to onions.  No, that is not even correct.  You can eat both of those things.  It is more like comparing apples to planetary moons.

After a long and heated Facebook debate about immigration between me, a Texas teacher, and an Iowa Republican Trump supporter I went to high school with who doesn’t even know if he ever met an illegal immigrant, I have pretty well proven to myself that a big share of the divide between liberals and conservatives stems from the unwillingness of one side to avoid equating facts and opinions.  Apples and moons.

So give me a moment to do what teachers do.

Here is a non-political lesson in Fact versus Opinion.

Who do you prefer?  Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny?  The answer doesn’t matter to me.

I can give you a quick and dirty lesson on fact and opinion using these two cartoon characters.  And it doesn’t even matter who you like more.

Here are some obvious facts about the two of them.

They are both cartoon characters.  They are both anthropomorphic animals.  They both wear gloves most of the time.  They both have a thumb and three fingers on each hand.

These things are observably true.  You can prove them by looking at the illustrations I have already provided.

Other things may not be as readily apparent, but no less provable.

Both of them are heterosexual and both of them have one main love interest.  Neither of them have ever been married, but neither of them really are playboys and even though there are no legitimate bits of evidence that either one has ever had sex with their respective girlfriends, Bugs has kissed Lola on more than one occasion and Mickey has kept company with Minnie for longer than most old married couples.

These things are provable by watching the cartoons and observing a preponderance of evidence.  There is no contradictory evidence.  But the possibility of contradictory evidence doesn’t change these things into opinions.  A disproven fact is still a fact.  It is merely a false fact.  Over time the relationship between Bugs and Daffy Duck may become clearer and the fact that Bugs is gay may pop out of the cartoon closet.  It does however, require proof, so it is a fact, not an opinion.

Here’s another fact you know the evidence supports.  Bugs Bunny is a nudist.  He almost always appears in cartoons naked.  Mickey, however, believes in wearing clothes.  Even when he gets out of the bath tub, he clutches the nearest towel, and you never get a look at whether he has cartoon genitals or not.  Mickey does hang out a lot with a duck who wears no pants, but that’s an irrelevant fact.

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The notion that Mickey and Bugs are very different personalities because they had very different creators, is an opinion.  It is a opinion offered by people who have studied the characters and their creators, and therefore can give you an informed opinion.  But it still can’t be proven.

Walt Disney made Mickey into more or less of an every-man sort of character whom audiences can identify with.  Things happen to Mickey Mouse, and the comedy comes from him trying to deal with those external forces, be they wind storms during music concerts, Donald Duck’s raging temper, or the evil plots of Black Pete.  Walt never said this was so to prove it, but it is not unreasonable to think it.

Bugs Bunny, on the other hand, was created by several great animators like Robert McKimson, Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, and Bob Clampett.  And Bugs tends to make things happen to other characters.  Think of how he plays Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, and even his pal Daffy for laughs.  He is more of a Groucho Marx type character than an every-man.  We don’t identify with him.  We only laugh at his victims (because they always deserve what he gives them).  That too is an opinion.  And even if one of his creators were to say that this was the intent, it still is not proven until all of them agree.  And they all had very different ways of doing things.

But these are only informed opinions.  You cannot be proven wrong whether you agree or disagree with them.  You are entitled to your own interpretations and opinions because they are not provable facts.  There is no one way to view any opinion.

Opinions, even un-informed opinions and religious beliefs are never either wrong or right.  You don’t make a mistake when you have an opinion.  It only becomes a mistake when you try to use it as a fact, or mistakenly believe it is a fact.

So, there is my lesson for those Facebook arguers who never seem to know the difference.  It’s all color-coded and everything.  So try using this new knowledge when arguing with me, rather than calling me stupid, or making your point IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS!

 

 

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Filed under angry rant, artists I admire, cartoons, commentary, education, Mickey, strange and wonderful ideas about life, teaching

Could Trump Actually Be Good For Liberals?

 

Yes, I did wash my mouth out with soap after saying that title out loud.  But I can’t help thinking such strange thoughts.  It is probably because Trump’s healthcare plans already have me off my meds.

I hear you screaming at your WordPress Reader saying, “How can you possibly be thinking such un-Democratic and really dumb thoughts?”

Well, if you think about it… I mean, hit your head three times near the reasoning center of the brain with a really hard rock… some of the greatest things that have happened to mankind have come from the very worst things that ever happened.

Because of World War Two and Hitler, we ended up inventing computers, and we ended up with a space program because beating Hitler gave us Werner Von Braun and some of the best rocket science minds in Germany.  Because LBJ felt guilty about helping the CIA murder Kennedy he enacted the Great Society and Civil Rights reforms that make up the best of Kennedy’s legacy.  (What?   You say that’s crazy conspiracy theory?  Well, I have been hitting my own head with a rock.)  In fact, the combination of Hitler and Kennedy’s assassination put men on the moon.

Yes, humanity needs really bad times to happen to force them to make changes for the better.  And Trump is really bad times.  He takes food away from school children and old home-bound people so he can play more golf at Mar-a-Lago on the taxpayers’ dime.  (Well, actually, it costs significantly more than a dime.)  He puts coal plant waste into rivers and the drinking water of millions.  He cuts regulations so corporate polluters are free to pour more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and keep us all so toasty warm with global warming that our faces will eventually melt.  (And can you imagine what beauty pageants will be like when the contestants no longer have faces?  Mr. Trump will no longer even be anxious to make those un-announced tours of the dressing rooms.)

The only choice we will have for survival if we are not Walmart heirs or Koch brothers is to fight back and correct the situation.  It is possible that enough people will wake up to the whole Trump trauma to take back the House of Representatives in 2018.  Then the investigations can really begin.  Trump is waking up a sleeping giant.  The public is ready to start fighting back.  Bill Nye the Science Guy is ready to throw some punches for science.

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Things that are necessary are never easy.  It is by making too many easy choices that we got ourselves into this mess.  There is a lot of stupidity and incompetence and badness out there to overcome now.  And we must face it or it will kill us.

And it may be a good thing that Trump won the election.  Hillary would’ve been a competent president and nothing would really have changed about the status quo.  We would’ve continued to complacently allow Republicans to run the House and Senate and oppose even the most mild and wishy-washy things that President Hillary would’ve tried to get done.  Now, the Trump backlash may propel us onward towards actual solutions to very real problems like climate change, excessive money in politics, ignorance among the voting public, and income inequality that is tipping us toward a new dark ages and a feudal-technological society.

So the big splash that Trump is sure to make might be a very good thing for liberals who hope to change things for the betterment of a majority of the people.

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Hurtful Words

Yesterday’s post got me thinking about how words and the power behind words can actually hurt people.  They can you know.  Words like “brainiac”, “bookworm”, “nerd”, “spaz”, “geek”, and “absent-minded professor” were used as weapons against me to make me cry and warp my self-image when I was a mere unformed boy.  I do not deny that I was smarter than the average kid.  I also recognize that my lot in life was probably better than that of people assaulted with words like “fatty”, “moron”, “loser”, and “queer”.  Being skinny as a child, there was actually only one of those deadly words that was never flung my direction.  Words like that have the power, not only to hurt, but even to cripple and kill.

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We all stand naked at times before a jury of our peers, and often they decide to throw stones.

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I try to commit acts of humor in this blog.  Or, at least, acts of verbal nit-witted goofiness that make at least me laugh.  I have been told by readers and students and those forced to listen that I only think I am funny, and I am a hopelessly silly and pointless old man (a special thank you to Miss Angela for that last example, used to tell me off in front of a science class I was substitute teaching years ago.)  But those words do not hurt me.  I am immune to their power because I know what the words mean and I am wizard enough to shape, direct, and control their power.

I have stated before that I don’t approve of insult humor (usually right before calling Trump a pumpkin-head, or otherwise insulting other members of the ruling Empire of Evil Idiots).   And I don’t mean to shame others or make them feel belittled by my writing.  But sometimes it happens and can’t be helped.

This blog isn’t about entertainment.  I am not a stand-up comedian working on joke material.  I use this blog as a laboratory for creating words and ideas.  It is mostly raw material that I mean to shape into gemstones that can be used to decorate or structurally support my crown jewel novels.  I use it to piece ideas together… stitch metaphors and bake gooseberry pies of unusual thinking. I use it to reflect on what I have written and what I have been working on.  And sometimes, like today, I use it to reflect on how readers take what I have written and respond or use it for ideas of their own.  That’s why I never reject or delete comments.  They are useful, even when they are barbed and stinging.  I made an entire post out of them yesterday.

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I try hard myself to be tough in the face of hurtful words.  You have to learn that essential Superman skill to be a middle school and high school teacher.  It is there in those foundries for word-bullets that the most hurtful words are regularly wielded.  The skill is useful for when you need the word bullets to bounce off you, especially if you are standing between the shooter and someone else.  But I can never feel completely safe.  Some words are kryptonite and will harm me no matter what I do.  Some words you simply must avoid.

Anyway, there is my essay on hurtful words.  If you want to consider all of that being my two cents on the matter… well, I probably owe you a dollar fifty-five.

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I Have No Idea

Yesterday I posted a weird picture that I haven’t used before and made myself cry gushers of tears again for the boy the picture is a portrait of.  I suppose it is a catharsis I didn’t really need.  I woke up today with a blistering headache to keep my perpetual backache company.  Could that have been caused by the crying and the blues that ensued?  Probably.

So, I have no idea for today.  My brain hurts and my heart is burned out.

I checked Facebook where I had posted this quote from Malala ;

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I wasn’t really prepared for controversy.  I should’ve been.  It is obvious from the guns versus books graphics that it would stir emotions in my liberal author and teacher friends, as well as my conservative cracker anti-Muslim friends.

My aunt, a former career teacher, responded first.  She wrote, “Like the thought.”  She was a great third grade teacher in Iowa for many years.  She loved all kids then and still does today.  I want to be like that in retirement too.

But the next response was from a former high school friend who voted for Trump and hates all the people the Republican Party orders him to hate.

“Sounds great like most sound bites. Much harder to explain and implement.”  My friend, Ali Hassenbutter (not his real name, but this will make him angry as well as protect his actual identity), likes to take jabs at me for being a liberal, and the subtext here is that, even though I was a teacher for many years, I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to education.  So, I answered him with some heartfelt teacher-ism.

“I had Egyptian and Lebanese and Arab students in my classes at Garland ISD. They are people just like us. You help them learn English. They make American friends. Americans learn that most Muslims are not terrorists. What’s so complicated about that? Unless you start slamming doors in their faces and treating them as less valuable than you are.”   I admit to maybe being a bit snarky in that last line, but sometimes he gets my goat.  (I know I should just let him have it.  I have never liked my goat that much anyway.  It smells bad.)

A fellow ESL teacher from Garland chimed in even though she doesn’t know Ali.  “And these students added spice in our classroom…  Just like they do in the USA.”  She knows all the students I was referencing.

Then one of my other Belmond classmates who knows and probably detests us both as heathens added his words of wisdom, “The real concept here is that we are in fact ALL HUMAN.”  See there?  The Bible banger gets it.  And I really appreciate when he steps in and tries to make peace.  He’s somewhat nutty at times, but his new-found religion allows him to believe like I do that we should choose love over hate as our default response, even to terrorism.

But Ali comes back with;   It takes both approaches to this problem. But then there is Berkley as a shining example of education gone off the rail.”  He’s at least trying to sound like he is listening to our comments, but then he pulls this old red hot chestnut out of the fireplace.  He offers it like the opinion of the crazy, racist uncle at Thanksgiving Dinner.

“Yes, because it was the teachers’ fault at Berkley. That poor young racist agitator from Breitbart was supposed to have a peaceful forum for spewing his hateful mouth garbage at young liberal college students, and the college administrators who granted him that right didn’t bend over backwards far enough to prevent a violent reaction.”  I know, sarcasm is the resort of the defeated.  I should be championing love over hate and freedom of speech over my personal revulsion to Milo.

My teacher friend had this to add;  “I understand the “right” instigated that incident.”

“Yes, but they wore masks to hide their identity. That makes them automatically liberals, doesn’t it? If I am able to follow Fox News Logic, anyway.”  Sez I.

And so, there we stand, at the very beginning of a month-long Facebook love/hate debate.  And I will lose.  You can argue with brick walls and score more debate points than you can arguing anything political with Ali.  And the frustrating thing is, he’s an ordinary decent human being and stand-up guy too.  Not just a dismiss-able deplorable because he voted for Trump.

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I have no ideas today.  I have a headache.  If I can’t defend Malala’s heroic logic, then I can’t even argue my way out of a bowl of chicken soup.  Doomed to drown in chicken broth.  At least I will die healthy at the bottom of that mixed metaphor.  That should be worth a laugh.

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