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the more things change
is it just me, or has everyone snapped a little?
by robert a. melos
5.22.04
pop culture

“But if this ever changing world in which we live in, makes you give in and cry...”-- Live And Let Die, Music and Lyrics by Paul and Linda McCartney


Some days it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed. You roll over, flick on the television and the morning news, and wish you could curl up in a little ball and hide beneath the covers. The news anchor is teleprompter parroting the news to you with minimal emotion, but with each car bombing, each antigay bill going before the senate or a small town council, each train disaster with body counts, each proclamation against abortion and/or homosexuality by an archdiocese, you feel the emotions welling up within you until you are overwhelmed by your own feelings of anger, hatred, sadness, and the desire to hide from the world.

The good news is, well, there is no good news. Lately everything seems to have gone from bad to worse, and it doesn’t show signs of getting better anytime soon. As much as I would like to lay the blame for this feeling squarely on the shoulders of Dick Cheney, George Bush, John Ashcroft and Donald Rumsfeld, I can’t. Sure there is plenty of blame to go around, and they’ve earned their fair share of it, but they couldn’t have earned it if the ignorance and intolerance and outright hatred hadn’t been lurking there long before they came to power.

Let’s face it the human race is not one big love fest with group hugs going all around. It’s an emotional pot boiling over at the present, and no one seems to realize the best way to stop a pot from boiling is to lower the heat. So instead of looking for nonviolent answers to the world’s problems, we are seeking to destroy our fellow human beings in the name of some god. We are looking to dominate world resources and create second-class citizenship through ignorance and misconceptions created by world leaders and Bible beaters determined to manipulate the so-called “word of God” to their own ends.

After ten minutes of morning news, I’m quite surprised anyone ever gets out of bed. I know I’m left feeling as if I’ve been beaten, and am in need of several hours of solitude to contemplate the futility of my desires to live in a world of peace, love and harmony.

Where do you find the daily optimism to set foot out of the house and face the fluctuating stock market teetering on the edge of disaster every time another CEO takes a perp walk? Where do you find the strength to carry on with your ideals and your own code of ethics and morality intact in the face of world leaders and domestic icons lies? Where do you find a safe corner to hide in?

I know I struggle with these thoughts every single time I wake up to face a new day. I’m not even sure where my own strength comes from, when I’m faced with the task of going on about my business while knowing in my heart that half the people I encounter in one day are diametrically opposed to everything I feel would make the world perfect for me.

All I wanted was, like most of you, to live and let live, to enjoy my life and the world in which I live and allow others to do the same. Instead each day is a test of wills. From the drive to work, to ordering coffee on the way to work, to the first encounter of the morning with a co-worker or secretary or boss, to the lines at the lunch deli counter, to the argument with the dry cleaner, to the evening traffic jam, to the past due bills waiting in the mailbox upon returning home, to the cable company customer service representative suggestion to not use that particular channel even though it’s paid for, to the neighbor’s dog howling all night while people are trying to get some sleep before starting the process all over again the next day, every second of the day is pushing harder and harder until you feel as if you’re going to snap.

And somewhere along the course of the day, you go from a live and let live mentality to a live and let die way of thinking. You just can’t take another news report about another dead soldier, or another pseudo-news broadcast telling you why you must be a Christian who follows the teachings of the anchor’s chosen deity in order to be of any value as a person, or another commercial endorsing a politician campaigning on a war record for a war based on misinformation, and you end up caring less and less about your fellow man and more and more about protecting yourself from the evils of the world by hiding in your bedroom.

You’ve snapped, like the proverbial twig.

Why is the world so hard to live in? Why do half of the people I meet want to keep me from having the relationship I want? Why do half of the people I meet want to deny me any rights at all? Why does the cat on the cat litter commercial sound like Sean Connery?

Yes! The cat is secretly double oh seven, Sean Connery, James Bond in disguise. Suddenly it all starts to make sense again. The world does have an order to it, and more importantly there are secret organizations and undercover agents, some in cat costumes, who are out there fighting for your rights and your safety. You are not alone in this ever-changing world, and there is no need to give in and cry….

With one thematic television moment, you realize all hope is not lost and, just maybe, something good can and will happen. Granted a cat imitating Sean Connery isn’t going to save the world from itself, but it does give you pause. Knowing Her Majesty’s Secret Service has a license to claw makes everything seem less hopeless. After all if your sense of humor can survive the daily struggle of living, than you can survive.

We’ve been taking the world must too serious, as of late. Yes, terrorism is a threat, just as muggers and rapists, and lying politicians threaten our ways of life, but these threats have existed since time began. The first time the Clan of the Cave Bear attacked the Clan of the Desert Lion, and the Clan of the Jungle Tiger, and a young cave girl uttered those immortal grunts that translated out to “lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”, we’ve been living with the threat of terrorism and the hate and contempt of our fellow human beings.

It’s plain to see the world isn’t going to Hell in a hand-basket. Despite the actions of a few self-important world leaders and a few more self-important religious leaders and the occasional actor turned director turned prophet, the world is no different now than it was on September 10th, 2001. The danger was always there, and we didn’t recognize it.

The concept of not trusting anyone has always been an option in our lives, but choosing that option doesn’t mean we have to stop living our lives and hide because the television news broadcast predicts a chance of heavy terrorism with intermittent doom and gloom being preached by devout Wall Street bankers and a handful of televangelists all looking for a handout. We can’t give in and hide, or cry. We have to stand up and tell the world we aren’t going to accept things as they are, simply because a politician or two uses fear as a campaign tool.

It may be getting harder to breath, if we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the manmade pressures we place upon ourselves to follow one particular path of thought, but all we have to do to change things is to look at them from another perspective. Lighten up, enjoy life, but do so with one eye on the horizon and the other on your sense of humor.

Change comes when it is needed, be it political parties or kitty litter boxes.

I’ll bet when you read the Sean Connery kitty litter connection you thought I was going to go for a Pussy Galore joke, didn’t you?




ABOUT ROBERT A. MELOS

Robert is the author of the novels Cool Mint Blue, Melba Ridge, and the recently released The Adventures of Homosexual Man and Lesbian Lad; and the creator of the on-line comix Impure Thoughts found at his web site Inside R.A. Melos, as well as having been an on-line staff writer for QBliss where he had a monthly humor column, Maybe A Yip, Maybe A Yap. In his non-writing time, when he's not studying the metaphysical or creating a tarot deck, he sells real estate in Middlesex County New Jersey, hangs out with his dog Zeus, and spends time at the Pride Center of New Jersey in Highland Park, NJ, where he is on the Board of Trustees.

more about robert a. melos

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COMMENTS

matt morin
5.24.04 @ 6:03p

True, change comes when it's needed. But in the past 3 1/2 years, pretty much everything - the environment, the economy, human rights, civil rights, corporate responsibility, foreign policy, our laws, our television and movies, etc., etc., etc - have been changing for the worse.

robert melos
5.24.04 @ 6:55p

Yes changes have been for the worse, but many people who would have ignored changes unless they had a direct effect on themselves are starting to stand up and point out things are wrong.

Maybe it's because the bad changes are finally effecting them, or maybe the human race is getting more of a conscience.

Given the fact that there are still people who believe homosexuals don't deserve any rights and they should either be killed or imprisoned because they aren't heterosexual, I'd say the human race has a long way to go before we evolve to a point where we are beyond hate and bigotry.

I've been told by people in my own hometown that gay rights are "for a bunch of uppity faggots who need to be put in their place." The irony is, these very people telling me this are people who 50 years ago where the ones who would've been told they needed to be put in their place.

I doubt the human race will evolve enough in my lifetime, unless we blow ourselve up first, which brings me to foreign policy.

Americans are pretty much disliked globally, if you watch "man on the street" interviews with foreign news services. Yet there are many Americans who cannot understand why anyone would hate us. We are so loveable.

The ruination of television is reality tv, although this should be discussed on Russ's column.

I still want to see that animated Father Of The Pride series.

Corporate responsibility went out the window when Dick Cheney invoked executive privilege in the investigation into his Haliburton dealings. So instead of getting a real liar, the general public settled for a scapegoat in Martha Stewart because she is a.) a woman, b.) lied to save herself 40K, c.) distracted people long enough for the rest of corporate America to shred all their documents and paper trails to cover their asses.

As for our legal system, people have been abusing our laws ever since they were written, and will continue to abuse them as long as mankind exists.

dan gonzalez
5.24.04 @ 11:38p

executive privilege in the investigation into his Haliburton dealings.

Er, but not when Clinton invoked it to avoid Whitewater, to avoid revealing VP Hillary's secret healthcare task-force meetings, or to avoid testifying about his pizza girl? Don't you remember that they took it court, just as you're criticising Cheny for? Also, things didn't go to shit when Clinton perjured himself in federal court? Come on, now, you have good reasons to dislike Bush but no grounds to suggest he or Cheney invented corruption or the shirking responsibilty.

Let's be realistic and look at the shit timeline, cause it didn't start 3.5 years ago, unless your head is completely up, well, buried in the sand.

Early 1960's: Great advance for civil rights, bunch of assasinated people. Democrat LBJ permanently hoses welfare and totally screws up Vietnam for good.
Late 1960's: Sophomoric nostalgic doomed love movement, beginning of rebellion without a clue. Ohio National Guard shoots clueless but harmless protesters, Nixon mends things with China but completes the catastrophe in Vietnam. Nixon tapes Democratic strategists to learn how they seek to oppose him.
1970's: The death of flower-children who discover acid brings not love, but total confusion. They numb themselves with pot fumes to dull the pain of reality. The demise of Rock-and-Roll begins and the last time EVER that a corrupt president will willingly resign.

1980's: Flower children become yuppies, discover brie and Peruvian Coke. Get greedy, cause bank scandals. We win the cold war. Reagan develops the concept of the fall guy to avoid presidential responsibilty. Rock is briefly resurrected on college radio, but otherwise thrashed by dance-pop and new wave.

1990's: Grunge puts another stake in the heart of rock. Clinton rides the wave of ex-hippie yuppie money to the whitehouse. Runs with Gore but gives all VP power to his wife. She offends both parties and loses the democratic majority in congress with her Marxist healthcare proposal. Bill and Hillary sign various telecommunications acts, the effect of which is to allow any startup tech firm to capitalize massive losses and legally pretend to be profitable. He takes no responsibilty for anything he's done and clings helplessly to office. He abuses executive priveleges, either forgets about fall guys or realizes all of his are dead, so chooses perjury. Democratic backlash reveals 30-year-old affairs of Henry Hyde and Bob Livingston, WHO STEP DOWN. First lady Al Gore hides. VP Hillary distances herself. Clinton survives for no good reason, takes a half-hearted stab at middle-east peace during the recesses of various trials. He redefines 'is'. All of the artificially inflated tech firms take a huge dump all at once. Hillary shows back up, they raid the Whitehouse and they pardon a bunch of their campaign contributers.

[edited]

robert melos
5.25.04 @ 1:07a

I don't say Clinton or Cheney invented corruption, I'm just more forgiving of Clinton. I guess because if I were stuck in a lifeboat, I'd rather be in a lifeboat with Bill Clinton than Dick Cheney. I go purely on gut feelings.

Dick Cheney frightens me in ways Bill Clinton never did. Clinton was too busy getting laid to be as big of a threat to the world as Dick Cheney is. I truly feel Cheney and his presence in the White House will cause physical and emotional damage worldwide that will take generations to clean up, if it will even be possible.

I don't base this on anything other than the bad feeling I get every single time I see him on television or in a newspaper. The feeling I got the first time I saw his photo, a gut reaction that instantly told me this was a person I wanted to be as far from as possible, and I didn't know who he was when I saw that photo. He was just someone who gave me an instant feeling of foreboding.

As for corruption, the first time a caveman formed an alliance was the first time corruption came into play. It may seem I do not give the human race much credit, but that's because I don't.

Sure we came a long way since the dawn of time, but we have a long way yet to go. We are a warrior race, no matter how much we pretend not to be, and we will most likely always be warrior in nature.

I see the death of a gay man strung up on a fence and beaten and left to die, only now to have one of his murderers seeking a lighter sentence because he didn't understand that plea bargining down from the death penalty to two consecutive life sentences meant he would never get out of jail, as a point in the timeline where humanity has once again failed itself.

I see the 1960s in general as a time when the world was coming apart for some, and escapism into drug culture seemed to be their choice route. LBJ didn't hose warfare. Warfare hosed the human race long before that. If we go back throughout history we will discover all the things we currently see happening have already happened on a lesser scale.

Lets face it. Arrows could at one time be considered weapons of mass destruction.

I would like to see a world of peace, but that won't be happening in any of our lifetimes or our children's or grand-children's lifetimes.

Sorry for digressing. Back to Cheney. Haliburton is the main company rebuilding Iraq. I don't remember White Water as anything more than a bad real estate deal. I see them every day. There was no company getting the government contract to rebuild Sarajevo or Croatia out of White Water.

What sickens me is that everything is coming down to the bottom line of money. We've put a value on human life, and it isn't an across the board value. The rich man's life is worth much more than the poor man's, and that will become more evident by the middle of next year, no matter who

matt morin
5.25.04 @ 1:28a

Dan, other than getting rid of Saddam, name one major thing that has changed for the better under Bush.

robert melos
5.25.04 @ 2:06a

Oops. Sorry. Ran out of space. Wow, I'm long winded when I write.

Anyway, I was saying it won't matter who is in the White House because Bush will have left so many problems it will take generations to clean up, if they can be cleaned up.

I didn't even touch on the environmental issues. Instead of pouring millions into a war in Iraq, why not put money into research to develop cleaner environmentally friendly fuels to power autos? Why not put more money into our schools to educate our children to think beyond aggression?

No, Bush has taken two stands since becoming president. One is the war in Iraq, and the other is his determination to "save" the institution of marrige from being defiled by the great mockery of same-sex marriages.

Those are the only two issues on which he has taken a hard stand. He's all but abandoned his No Child Left Behind program, only touting it when he wants to give the illusion of concern for the education of the nation's youth. And then he turns around and decides the best form of sex education is to teach Abstinence instead of stressing the dangerous possibilities of disease and the need for precautions should the kids decide to experiment. "Hey kids, just don't do it cause the government, or the school or your parents say not to."

Show a real old fashion army Gonorrhea film to high school freshmen and I'll bet the rate of teen pregnancy will cut in half.

Let's face it, we can't let education up to the parents in most cases, because the parents aren't there or concerned with very much beyond their own needs. For every good parent who is there for their children, who cares and tries to make sure their kids don't end up plant food before they reach maturity, there are ten parents, not sets of parents, who are more concerned with trying to trap their next husband, or trying to maintain a line of communication with their children after dumping their first family for a second or third family because daddy couldn't control his own sexual urges.

I won't even get into the abusive parents, and completely neglectful ones.

Of course I'm shoot too far here. I'm suggesting trying to save the whole human race, when the human race is Hell-bent on extinction.

Example: The world oil supply, if I remember grade school humanities courses, should be running out some time in the next century, give or take a decade. Instead of really working on a way of solving that problem, men like Bush are trying to make every penny they can off of the current top fuel source before declaring an emergency and deciding to "fix" the situation.

I've suggested this before, but while Bush is trying to stop same-sex marriage, eventually it may be encouraged because there is a chance of fewer families reproducing and also more of an opportunity to relieve the problem of unwanted and abandon children by urging e

robert melos
5.25.04 @ 2:08a

Damn, did it again.

Picking up where I left off.... by urging every childless couple (straight or gay) to adopt one child.

I don't suggest this as a way of promoting homosexuality, because if I had my way, only good looking people could be gay. I suggest this as one of the ways to save the human race from itself, that seriously may come up in the next century.

Of course I'm also more of a worry about today kind of guy. In that case, Bush/Cheney still have to go.

tracey kelley
5.25.04 @ 7:43a

Change comes when it is needed, be it political parties or kitty litter boxes.

I’ll bet when you read the Sean Connery kitty litter connection you thought I was going to go for a Pussy Galore joke, didn’t you?


HA!


matt morin
5.25.04 @ 3:51p

Wow, speaking of things changing for the worse, how this: al Qaeda still alive and well.

This scares me.

[edited]

lisa r
5.25.04 @ 4:42p

Best political bumpersticker of all time, bar none:

Politicians are like diapers. They need to be changed often and for the same reason.

robert melos
5.25.04 @ 5:09p

Matt, relax. Those 18000 Al-Qaeda were probably organized a long time ago, we just didn't know about them. Actually, this is just an educated guess at the number. It very well could be a lot more than 18000.

The thing is, we can't worry too much about it, because it's one of those things that'll take a long time to change. You've got to just enjoy your life, make the most of it no matter what. Al-Qaeda scares me, and Geroge W. Bush scares me, and so does Dick Cheney, and most conservatives. On the plus side, I live in America and while my rights are probably just a fragile as I imagine in my worst nightmares, as long as I'm free to speak my mind I don't have a problem.

dan gonzalez
5.25.04 @ 5:42p

Dan, other than getting rid of Saddam, name one major thing that has changed for the better under Bush

The economy. Dow is up, unemployment down, jobs are up. All better than in early 2000, and I'd be surprised to see any real proof that the economy is somehow worse.

Wow, speaking of things changing for the worse

Why succumb to the obvious fear this article is trying to instill? It is written with unsupported conjecture: "Driving the terror network out of Afghanistan in late 2001 appears to have benefited the group"; Half-truths: "The U.S. occupation of Iraq brought al-Qaeda recruits from across Islamic nations" (there were plenty already there); and a final point which undermines its' premise: "The IISS said its estimate of 18,000 al-Qaeda fighters was based on intelligence estimates that the group trained at least 20,000 fighters in its camps in Afghanistan before the United States and its allies ousted the Taliban regime". How could things be worse now that they have no place to train in such numbers, and their numbers are apparently going down?

I do not wish to go tit-for-tat. To stay in the spirit of Robert's article, I hate to see fear and dread. I will say that logic, motivated but not dominated by passion, is the best weapon against fear. No good will come by blaming all negativity on a single force to the exclusion of all others when it's clear that negativity thrives in many directions. The Democrats, Republicans, the UN, not to mention the scumbags in Al Qaeda, are all responsble for the problems we now have. You can put the blinders on if you want and say Bush is more to blame, but I'm not with you. Everything is too complex. I will not take propaganda and half-assed news reporting at face value-- I don't care if it's CNN, Fox, NY Times, Salon, whatever.--and allow it to undermine me. None of it is worth the paper it's printed on if it doesn't exclude bias and provide context and basis.

I can honestly say that Kerry is no better equipped to do anything in my opinion, so my vote is hard won. I can also say that I know people, both personally and through this fine website, that will be very unhappy if he doesn't win. I don't think any of us will be ruined either way, and I have many gripes with the Democrats, but I would not have my trepidation undermine you all. It will do my quixotic heart good knowing some people feel better with that outcome, even if I don't.

[edited]

matt morin
5.25.04 @ 5:58p

Hey, the article just reported on the findings of a London-based think tank of people who know a lot more about al Qaeda than you or I do. And if those people (neither Republicans nor Democrats, mind you) are saying al Qaeda is growing, harder to find, and more likely to pull off another attack on American soil - then I believe them.

Jobs are up? You have to be kidding. Bush has still lost millions of jobs on his watch - something no other President in a long time has done. And can you really say (especially after you being unemployed for 6 months) that the economy is better under Bush than it was under any President since maybe Carter? I think not.

I've never blamed Bush for all the problems facing this country right now (although he certainly is at the heart of many of them.) But as leader of our country, he's supposed to be a part of the solution. And he's clearly not that. Even his own party is starting to turn on him these days.

robert melos
5.25.04 @ 6:28p

Dan, unemployment is down because after a set number of weeks many people go off the rolls. That doesn't mean they got jobs, only that they aren't collecting. I have several friends and even more customers who still can't buy a house or even rent anymore because they can't find work unless they move out of the area, and moving isn't an option for many.

The Dow is up from it's slump, but barely. I watch this everyday. The up and down of the market is as fickle as the polls showing Bush and Kerry's ratings with the public.

As for the Al-Qaeda not having a place to train, don't believe it. Just because Afghanistan isn't open for Al-Qaeda Camp this summer doesn't mean places in the Middle East, some who profess alliances with America, have very active Al-Qaeda training camps. I don't think for a minute that Iraq doesn't have Al-Qaeda training going on right under the noses of the American military.

Of course, I always believe the worst case senarios. When you're prepared for teh worst, getting the best is a pleasant surprise.

dan gonzalez
5.26.04 @ 1:46a

All I said was that the economy was better now than when Bush took office, which is true. Also, I didn't say Al Qaeda didn't have a place to train. I implied that they no longer have a place to train in huge numbers which the iiss report agrees with. Also, I never disputed anything in the iiss report, just the partisan reporting which summarily twists it and thus disparages it.

Finally, I'll say that Matt and Robert have very well-founded, thoughtful insights, and that it will be a shame to us all if they suddenly get quiet just because a mere Democrat is in office.

I want to hear you guys bitch as loud and proud as you do now about all the problems that the next administration offers, and not sit around on your asses saying it was all Bush's legacy, Kerry couldn't do any better, and what can we do now? We're just happy because Kerry is a better scuba-buddy?

You better have more to fucking say than that, or I'll be pissed.

matt morin
5.26.04 @ 3:12a

Um...Kerry has bad hair?

lisa r
5.26.04 @ 7:52a

Kerry has very bad hair. Not quite along the lines of James Traficant's toupee, but close.

robert melos
5.26.04 @ 10:49p

See, I used to vote for the guy with the best hiar, but I've noticed the Bush hair color tends to change slightly from appearance to appearance, darkening up when he needs to look younger.

Kerry, well. I used to say I would never go to a bald barber, and my current "hairstylist" (they can charge more if they aren't a barber) is bald. In fact his nickname is "Q". I guess I can live with bad hair.

Seriously, I bitched about Clinton's lies, I just wasn't around IM back then. See, I was doing much better financially while Clinton was in office. Once Bush took office things took a turn, and even though housing prices skyrocketed (I really have terrorism to thank for that and not Bush) the market got tighter.

I personally don't like any politician, but apparently we have to have them. A nice Native American culture, with a governing council and tribal rule would be better, but we blew than possibility with the purchase of Manhattan. It may be prime real estate, but I wouldn't give you $24 bucks for it today.



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