Monday, July 10, 2006

Things I Don’t “Get.”

Lots of people do and say lots of things that others don’t understand. I’m sure I do things or have beliefs that others can’t fathom. Follows is a list of stuff I’ve seen, or heard that makes no sense to me, along with a short, or sometimes not so short reason why “I don’t get it.”

Smoking

What a puzzle, why people voluntarily destroy their health doing this. I tried smoking twice during my life, once as a 13 year old, and then again for a longer period as an adult. Neither experience was pleasant.

As a youngster, I snuck some cigs from my Uncle Bill’s open pack left sitting on my grandma’s coffee table. Perhaps it was coincidence, but less than a day later I came down with a horrible respiratory infection that put me flat on my back for three days.

Sixteen years later I became a cigarette “bum.” I “bummed” smokes from my smoker pals as we socialized. Smokers love having smoker company, so there was never a problem getting another cancer stick. This phase lasted all of six months. During that time, I woke up every morning with a nasty taste in my mouth; but when cancerous looking leech-like white polyps began forming on the roof of my mouth, I took that as a sign that I was doing something imbecilic and quit puffing once and for all.

Now, I work with older guys, EVEN older than me, who have smoked for decades, and I see first hand what being a “cool” smoker has done to them. They have destroyed the look of their skin, their lungs are filled with black goo, and most are sick much of the time. Their hair and clothes reek of it and they are definitely NOT cool. Even the guys that managed to quit this nasty habit never really know if it will catch up to them someday, regardless of their finally having “gotten smart.”


Nope, I don’t get smoking. I shake my head at the tragedy of it every time I see a young kid trying to be “cool,” defiantly sporting a lit cigarette between his fingers.

Piercing

This fad used to be “out there,” something people on the fringe of society did. Like lots of fads, this one has become overdone. There is some of it here in this country, but it’s the Western world where it has become mainstream. I admit, back in the early 80’s I got an earlobe pierced, but once the Air Force banned it, I shrugged and forgot about it.

Think; why did I do it? I suppose I wanted to be “cool.” (There’s that stupid reason again!) I look back now and smile at that version of myself, so willing to jump on the next bandwagon; and me, always so proud of my individuality. How could I have thought so, when I was merely doing what was popular? There’s nothing individual in that.

My little earring of 20 years ago is unremarkable compared to what people are willing to pierce these days. I could see it if it did something to enhance their look, but it just looks creepy to me. Nowadays, virtually every sexual organ is pierced; the entire face, and those areas not pierced are tattooed.

Tattoos

My father has a faded tattoo, I think of an eagle, on his arm. He never professed to be proud of it, and used to wish out loud that he didn’t have it. I don’t know if he really meant it, or if he was just trying to impress on us kids that WE shouldn’t want one.

Personally, I’ve never seen the attraction. When I see others with them I look at their “body art” as more of a distraction than as something to marvel over. The human body is already perfect in its natural state; why plaster it with garishness?

Look at me! That’s what a person with tattoos calls out. There’s a kid at school, maybe 19 years old; he has an unsavory, mostly black and white image of a skeletal figure and skull covering most of his upper arm. He’s obviously seeking attention and making a statement about himself. What is it, do you think, he’s trying to say? In ten years, will he want to say the same thing? If he “gets” it now, I doubt very much if he’ll “get” it then.

Hunting

I have nothing against this activity in its pure state, that is, man killing for food. I shake my head whenever I hear it termed as a sport. There’s nothing sport-like about it. Like any killing, it’s ugly. Even though we have to eat, taking precious life is repulsive, for me, that’s all there is to it.

In the 70’s I watched an episode of “Wide World of Sports” about hunting bighorn sheep. A guide and a well-known sports figure “stalked” one of these elusive ovine mountain “athletes,” looking through high-powered scopes mounted on even higher-powered rifles. They glowingly described how beautiful was their quarry, scampering and bounding over the impossibly steep terrain. Then, the football player guest hunter pulled the trigger and the sheep fell in an ugly heap down the mountainside. What was once beautiful was now a meaningless bag of sheep guts and curving horns. I felt ashamed.

Ted Nugent says we have to eat, and hunting is man’s natural and God-given right to express his need for bloodlust and red meat. The truth is hardly anyone anywhere anymore needs to hunt. People hunt for all kinds of reasons, but doing it for food is NOT why MOST do it. It’s much cheaper to buy your meat in a supermarket.

As a boy living within sight of I-95 in central Lower Michigan, I used to watch thousands of cars head north to the “killing fields” every Friday of deer season. Then, Sunday nights they streamed back south. These brave huntsmen swilled tons of beer while “harvesting” hundreds of deer, AND a few fellow humans caught in the crossfire, while spending hundreds of dollars per deer doing so. Ask them why and they tell you to “enjoy” nature.

I always chuckle when I hear that silly answer. I used to spend MOST of my days year-round in the woods and fields around my home, EXCEPT during hunting season. The so-called hunter/naturists just made it too dangerous for me to go out. I don’t get how putting a bullet through an animal in the wild equates to “enjoying nature.”

By comparison, I TRULY “enjoyed” nature in my traipsing; I saw all manner of birds and animals in their natural setting, and I never slaughtered a single one of them. Do I eat and enjoy meat? Yep. Would I hunt IF I had to? Yep. Will I ever have to? Probably not. In other words: I don’t get it!

Pacificism

I associate this term with the catchwords “appeasement” and “moral equivalency,” phraseology all the rage these days among the smug progressives in our midst. I understand that nothing is as simple as it seems, that the people claiming U.S. “over-involvement” in the world and for disengagement would be willing to fight if THEY THOUGHT the country’s existence was truly in danger, but would they? Perhaps some, but many I suspect from their demagoguery think nothing is worth a fight, especially if it has to do with maintaining what they see as the “evil” United States. Modern pacifists think that our destruction is exactly what we deserve, and I certainly DON’T get that!

People like Cindy Sheehan, Dennis Kucinich, Howard Dean, and most of the population of San Francisco really believe that the USA is no better than any of the evilest of all tyrannies out there, maybe worse. I’ve heard it said, “Who are we to tell North Korea and Iran that they cannot have nuclear weapons, when we are the only ones to ever use one against people.” That’s nothing but an example of the “moral equivalency” argument so in vogue these days. Anyone actually believing such a thing is completely out of touch with reality.

Today, modern pacifism is couched in arguments like, “Well, I was all for going into Afghanistan, but all the rest of Bush’s exploits do nothing but distract us from the REAL war on terror, and besides, he’s just creating more terrorists.”

It mystifies me that people really think that if we keep our heads down, and don’t go after these pitiless Islamo-terrorists/anarchists that they will just leave us alone. So, as these folks say self-righteously, we merely reap what we sew. In other words, THEY SAY we suffer the consequences of doing things such as continuing to support Israel, or having a forwardly positioned proactive military, or by espousing democracy and freedom for all nations, and by trying to prevent rogue states from acquiring nukes. Sounds like a new brand of isolationism to me. Perhaps they would prefer we act spineless like the new Spanish administration; or maybe we should copy the cynical and self-interested behavior of the Russians and Chinese?

The truth is we’ve done nothing to deserve this hatred, and to unilaterally declare our national “guilt” does nothing but encourage more attacks. We fight or we die; it’s that simple. Our enemies do not limit their presence to Afghanistan; they are where they are. If they raise their ugly heads and bare fangs, we have a right to hammer them down. I really don’t get any other way.

Abortion

Until a few years ago I never understood the emotion felt by both sides of this divisive issue. Even as a Catholic it didn’t cause me any particular consternation. After becoming a father and living in the world for a while, I find myself squarely against it. It’s strange that humanist liberals would be so “for” this inhumane procedure.

I’ve learned that human beings start to look very human very early in gestation, and the “quickening” of a baby in utero happens quite soon as well. Yet, just because this little human is unseen, progressives and feminists delude themselves into thinking that stabbing it, dousing it with harsh chemicals, and scooping it out piece-by-piece is the “humane” thing to do, and for all manner of fuzzy rationale.

Some of the excuses to kill a fetus: 1) the mother is too young, therefore, both the mom and the fetus is better off with the “ending” of the embryo. 2) There are too many of us in the world, so aren’t we all better off with one less “unwanted” child? 3) I’m not ready to have a child; I would make a terrible mother. 4) It’s MY body, and anything in it is MY business.

Is it just me, or do all those sound pretty weak and selfish, not to mention bordering on immoral? How do people who defend a murdering rapist against the death penalty, rationalize the destruction of an innocent little human? I don’t get it.

Littering

This subject enrages me, especially living here in the land of the litterbug. Throwing trash on the ground has always just seemed wrong to me, even as a kid I thought so. I don’t understand how people can stand around in refuse and continue as if it doesn’t exist. There is a police station near here, just inside one of the gates going into the old Clark Air Base, now called the Clark Development Corporation. The station is home to at least a half-dozen or more cops and it is always seedy with trash. No one bothers to pick it up and obviously, no one in charge seems to think it’s a problem. I don’t understand why they don’t get it.

Littering happens everywhere, all over the world. When I see it, I think about the person who tossed it there. Do they think it will just mysteriously disappear from view once it leaves their hand? I suspect they don’t think at all. No, they are just lazy and inconsiderate. I don’t get how anyone can be like that. The ENTIRE world has the potential to be a garden; why make it ugly if it doesn’t have to be?

Racism

Actually, this one I do get. I have to fight against feeling it all the time. I do this because I know it is in all of us to hate, based on appearance, based on experience, and based on what we’ve been taught. I was raised that all men are God’s children. I never heard the “n” word until I heard black people use it at school. I grew up in the 60’s during what I call “the backlash,” when black people began to hate whites “back” in a more obvious and physical way.

Two wrongs don’t make a right, but it sure happens all the time, doesn’t it? The only beatings I ever took as a kid were from other black kids that I did not know and had never even seen before. They hated me ONLY because I was white and I was there.

I remember clearly the first time I was exposed to the mindless hatred of racism. I was eight years old and playing with a bunch of other kids on a sandy playground on an overseas American air base. Out of the seven or eight kids there, only two or three of us were white, the rest were Asian, Latino and black. One of the black boys fell from the top of the slide and landed hard on his back in the sand.

The wind was knocked out of him, and when he got it back he screamed like the world was ending. Out of curiosity and concern we gathered around him. Suddenly, my head snapped back and I felt horrible pain in my scalp as I was tossed violently backward onto my butt. The boy’s mother had heard him screaming and came running. She had seen my little towhead and her racial baggage caused her to rip me back and away from her precious progeny. I heard her scream, “You piece of white shit, get the f**k away from my boy!” I didn’t get it then, but she and others like her made sure I get it now.

Gangster

This is a lifestyle, a choice many young people now aspire to. Some go part way by talking the Ebonics of the street, or wearing the big clothes; while others go the whole nine yards, to include the violence and sex so prevalent in gangster videos.

This sub-society has spawned from a style of rap music that I REALLY don’t get, called gangster rap. I used to enjoy rap, back when it had melody, when it was still something I could dance to. Now it has digressed into something I no longer recognize. It is the syncopated angry voice of the angry Black and Chicano mean streets, now emulated by suburban white kids; and THAT, I TRULY don’t get.

I’m sure many would tell me that my not “getting it” merely points out that I am middle-aged and thus a generation gap victim. I don’t think so, because I “get” other modern forms of music. It just doesn’t sink in why such an antisocial subculture would get so much “play” and seeming respect. Could it be . . . . money?

From what I’ve seen, “gangster” is about “being hard;” it’s about “bling;” it’s about disrespect for women; it’s about disrespect for each other and for authority; it’s about wanton self-indulgent materialism. Gangster is about being uncivil and mean to one another; you see an example of it every time you watch American sports and watch an end zone dance or a spike of the ball. They call it “in your face,” or just “FACE!” In other words, the culture of gangster is about the very worst our society has to offer. If I was a foreigner and had to find hideous fault with the USA, THIS American waste product is what I would point to.

Radicalism

By this, I’m mostly talking about Islamo-fascism. It’s THE most dangerous hatred out there, that stemming from religious fanatics. There is almost no way to battle it. Islamic mullahs are at this very moment preaching the “beauty” of hate and war against non-Muslims based on a skewed interpretation of their religious doctrine.

Many of the major religions have gone through extremist periods. Christianity had its unseemly time when self-seeking men used it to their benefit at the expense of innocents. Knowing that history contains other examples of religious radicalism doesn’t make it any easier for me to fathom.

In fact, I have a hard time grasping the concepts being ladeled into the brains of the terrorists doing so much harm in the world today. It makes me wonder if its true that what they do actually stems from hatred of all things Western, or is it really done for purely selfish reasons, such as the chance to sleep with 72 virgins. That anyone could swallow that load of malarkey seems completely unlikely and pathetic. So, they are killing innocent people for the chance of unlimited sex in paradise? Can’t we just find these people some virgins and get them to stop?

Profanity

I’ve written about this before. I have used it, and sometimes I slip and still do use an inappropriate word or two; but I strive not to. One of my acquaintances is an old American halfway to 90 from 80, and he is as profane a man as any I have ever had to suffer listening to. He uses the “f” word as noun, pronoun, adverb, adjective and verb. He does this seemingly without thought, no matter the venue. His speech is wretched, with a vocabulary stunted and deformed. I would hope that a man that old has become wizened over the years; instead, in his case, the passage of time seems to have shrunk him intellectually. I think if he actually heard himself, HE just might get it. But no, there’s that “old dogs and new tricks” thing to contend with.

Indifference

The world is filled with people who don’t care. They don’t care about the miserable condition of most of their fellow men; they don’t care about the state of the earth beneath their feet; and they could not care less about the breathability of the air passing through their lungs. That this could be so is the REAL shame of the world. I don’t understand how so many can feel so little; how so many DON’T get it. Doesn’t it makes sense that if everyone cared about things that matter – about each other – that there would be no need for a heaven, because we could create it here. Get it?

8 comments:

Ed Abbey said...

I agreed with everything... except for one and I think you know which one that one was. Even in that one, there was a lot you said that I agreed with.

Two notes on littering. First, how does a smoker think that throwing their butts willy nilly is okay? I've been known to pick up butts thrown on the ground with me present and throw them in their open car window, of course making sure they are out because I don't believe in arson. Second, the closest I've come to road rage happened while following someone out of a McDonald's drive through. As we were going down the road, my car was hit with a barrage of litter and one cheeseburger wrapper with pickles that stuck to my windshield. The only thing that saved them was that I only had about a fourth of a tank of gas at the time and couldn't follow them. Had I a full tank, I might have been serving time right now.

Excellent post.

Amadeo said...

Phil:

You sure put a lot on the plate for this one.

But I can identify with one and will comment on it.

On my only trip to Michigan to visit a brother who practices medicine in Waterford, we drove all the way to Mackinac Bridge. Beautiful countryside. Trees and lakes and in the middle of November.

But the road was alive with trucks and SUVs, all loaded with deer carcasses on their rooftop carriers and some on the hoods of their vehicles. Learned it was the first day of hunting season.

Very eerie sight for me. And along the way, there were several stations where hunters could stop to have their catch gutted and cleaned.

And you are right, I do not believe those big SUV owners were hunting for food. But to be fair, it is expressed that one of the reasons for the regular hunting seasons is to regulate the population of deers and other wild life.

watson said...

Your last paragraph drove straight home. It's indifference. Whatever they do to themselves, to others, or to their surroundings does not affect them at all. At least that's what they think.

We were at a camping ground recently, and it has become a popular spot whereas around seven years ago, only trekkers were able to go there. Cemented roads now make it so easy to go there. What pains me to see is the amount of garbage families leave behind after they've had their fun afternoon. As a side effect, the ecology is being damaged. It may not be as dramatic as deer hunting, but it's there.

But there are also people who do care. People who are not indifferent. Mountaineering groups who turn some of their trips into cleanup campaigns. People who run www.hopeline.com.

All these nasty things around us may be overwhelming, but we do not have to be indifferent about it. We can do something too. And while we try to help out, we think about what they have been doing and shrug, "I don't get it. What are they thinking?" :-)

PhilippinesPhil said...

Hey Ed... it's funny that this post was fairly long, but it took practically no time to write. I think the things that irk us the most can provide the most inspiring material on which to write.

In the military I HATED that I had to pick up OTHER people's cigarette butts. Infuriating.

First they feel it's their right to mess up the air I'm trying to breathe, then they throw those nasty butts all over the place. There is nothing about smoking I like. I can't think of any friends I have that smoke. Now that I think about it, maybe unconciously that's one of my considerations for palship.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Amadeo...Yup "big plate" indeed, but as I said to Ed, this was the easiest post I've ever produced.

Mackinac Bridge, huh? Did you go across to the island? I hope so; for me, THAT was the real reason to make the long trip up I-75. I wouldn't have chosen November though! Brrrrr! Too bad you couldn't go in the Summer; even MORE beautiful.

I despised hunting season when I lived there. In fact, I hate the whole SUV, snowmobile, powerboat, off road cycle culture that dominates most of the State. For the typical Michagander, enjoying nature involves USING it, shooting things, and making lots of noise while going real fast on their "toys." In fact, most folks from that state know nothing about nature. Whereever they go in it, they drown it out with all the noise and dust they produce.

Many use the rationale that the huge herds of deer in the US require "culling" to stay healthy, and they are right. But the idea that a bunch of amateurs with guns should be the ones doing this is ridiculous. In reality, there's not much natural about these gigantic herds of whitetails. We have more deer in the USA today than we have EVER had in the known history of the continent. Deer didn't do well in the thick virgin forests before the Europeans leveled them and planted crops. And the best tasting deer are the ones that eat crops, in other words, domesticated. Actual wild deer taste like crap... "gamey" is the word.

Okay, the real reason people hunt...they like to kill things. There's a lot of personal power felt in that moment when a bead is drawn on another living being. It's the power of life and death. Hunting is an anachronism. It's not necessary.

Short story: In high school some guys were talking about their squirrel hunting. One fellow proudly described how he shot one high in an oak tree. The "tree rat," as I call them, refused to fall and held on tightly with two paws while dangling from a small branch, its hind legs useless. The young hunter proudly told how he shot off one of the squirrel's paws and STILL it refused to fall, hanging on now by a single paw. Finally, laughing, he said he carefully shot off the other paw. MInd you, he could have easily killed the squirrel, but opted to "play" with it instead. It was at that moment that I realized what hunting does to many people. I was the ONLY one listening to his twisted tale that saw anything wrong with what he did. Hunting when you don't need to do so to eat is demented.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Hello Wat... so you've noticed that the easier it is to get the "public" to a wilderness area the easier it then becomes for them to mess it up. Unfortunately, people are pigs. Nature and people do NOT do well together.

Or I should say, nature doesn't do well with people. The true definition of "nature" should be "without people." You, Ed Abbey and myself are the exceptions, we are not the rule.

You're right, we can all do something. It's an uphill, no, an IMPOSSIBLE battle. I walk along the inside of the fence line on Clark two or three times a week trying to keep my legs and lungs in at least some semblance of fitness. I walk past a spot where local construction guys working on the new Tarlac-to-Subic Hiway go to a hole in the fence to buy drinks and snacks from a little store on the other side. These guys are pitiful! They finish their drinks and drop their cups on the ground, they eat their snacks and leave the wrappings all over. ONce a week I'll take a bag and clean it up, and it takes a BIG bag. These guys will watch me pick it up and they don't feel the least bit ashamed that they are so piglike. I want to scream at them: "This is YOUR country. Why don't you act like you love it and stop crapping all over it!"

It's not just Filipinos that do this; ALL people are basically pigs and have no concern or feel little if any responsiblity for the world around them..... INDIFFERENCE.. it's sickening Wat....sigh

Senor Enrique said...

Hi Phil!

There's a lot of interesting stuff here and please allow me to point out two things:

1) I've recently posted about my having been once addicted to nicotine:
http://senorenrique.blogspot.com/2006/07/no-butts-no-more.html

2) As for indifference, I sense it as a derivative of a deep-seated anger and the reason they've stopped caring for others is because they could hardly care for their own selves.

Interesting site; discovered it via Sidney's links.

Thanks,

Eric aka sdenor enrique

PhilippinesPhil said...

Hello Mr. Enrique.....Read your story on your problems with smoking... I left a comment... smokers have made me suffer a lot over the years.. I wish everyone who smokes could find the fortitude to quit as you did... not just for the smokers, but ESPECIALLY for us non-smokers!