I don't have much of a connection with my father. It's not a bad scene really- I don't have a tale of woe. No one was abandoned or beaten in a drunken stupor. We've gone for years at a go without speaking, and it's not rooted in hostility or contempt (of any significance), but more a matter of serious lack of common ground. Recently, I had a typically short email exchange that was I think a classic example of the problem, and I don't know to what extent this is a generational thing. He is one of these "born again" types of "Christian" people, which I find distasteful from the start, what with all the smugness that goes with that territory. I put "Christain" in quotes, because he is (like almost all self-confessed "Christians" I enounter) a Christian in name only. By that, I mean that he likes the holier-than-thou condesention, and the judgment of others- all the preachy parts that seem to be the purvue of folks with low self esteem. Not too much in the way of forgiveness, and loving the sinner while hating the sin, etc. But that's a seperate tirade, and it's bigger than just him. I only bring it up as it helps frame the two basic kinds of email I get from him. One flavor is the "Jesus" variety, wherein, I'm the heathen, and he's worried about my soul. The other primary sort is the "Rah Rah! We Kick Ass! Hoo-Ray America! We Can Do No Wrong! " kind of fevered patriotic claptrap that also is favored by people with a weak self-identity, who more often than not use these things to compensate for thier overwhelming feelings of powerlessness.
Yeah, I'll take off the Freud glasses and try to explain what I meant there. In the realm of patriotism, there is a fine line, and it's not easily addressed with sound bytes, but that's all we really have anymore. My country right or wrong, right or wrong my country. Blah blah blah. Bullshit. Nothing is ever that easy. Well, almost. Here's the big picture model: The Owners of this society like owning and controlling things, and worked hard to make it happen, and don't want to give up thier control. They got where they are by centralizing schools, and then undermining the teachers so that at no point do students learn how to think. Then they got us to part with our liberties by scaring us, and since the days of William Randolph Hearst, they have used their friends in the media to help confuse, misinform, and scare us until we did what served them best. Next, they took what little we had of our own, by appealing to our greed, by turning us against one another, and by leveraging what they already had to force our surrender. All of this would ordinarily and expectedly have us feeling pretty helpless and down in the dumps. To mitigate these feelings if impotence, they crafted a false faith for us- the idea that we are somehow a force to be reckoned with- to be feared for our brute strength, and praised for our superior humanity and integrity. (Exhibit A.)
This false faith really resonates with the folks who are feeling the most incapable and disenfranchised. They can feel a part of something- anything, that is powerful. Patriotism then is the penis entension, boob job, red sportscar, hair weave, viagra, and girls gone wild ego compensation all combined. Rest assured, as a confessed egomaniac, I've spent some time considering the subject. This is the way in which anyone with jack shit going on in their lives can feel triumphant. Real patriotism is about giving of oneself without fanfare, and this modern namesake is about loudly taking for oneself, in order to feel less insignificant. In 200 plus years, we've gone from Nathan Hale's "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country" to "kick his ass, take his gas". This did not happen by accident. This is the second kind of email I get from my father.
A while back I got an email from him about a Navy ship that was made from some of the scrap metal from the World Trade Center. The ship, the USS New York (LPD 21), was constructed in 2004, and was to be some kind of floating memorial to the victims of the September 11th attacks. He sent an email that was full of needlessly maudlin fluff and neo-patriotic garbage about "never forgetting" (as an aside- what the fuck CAN'T this country forget?) and showed this picture (or one similar):
To which I responded by saying:
#1) That's one ugly boat. And for a surface combat ship, where are the guns?
#2) How many victims remains do you suppose were burned off in the smelting of the scrap metal?
I'm not being deliberately shocking, or even saying that they shouldn't recycle the metal, but I also know that there was a huge indignity delivered to the families of the victims when it was revealed that in the haste to scoop up detrious, bodies were sometimes mistakenly taken and dumped in the Fishkill, NY landfill that received the WTC scrap. It's a very likely scenario, and there's shit-all to be done about it at this point, other than to say we're very sorry.
His reply was essentially oriented about point #1 and allowed as how in this day an age it's all electronic combat, and that guns are archaic or such. He said that it didn't matter much what the boat looked like, as the enemy would never get close enough to see it. No fooling- that was his view. He's ex-Navy.
As for the second point, he dismissed it as me being conspiracy minded. No need to check into the allegation.
I replied in my usual flip manner that all the high tech electronics and modern combat jazz didn't help the USS Cole. That was pretty much the last of that conversation.
Fast forward to last week where I saw this article
which talks about how the Navy has admitted that their new Destroyers can't withstand heavy seas. D'oh! Well, okay, better to catch that now, than to wait until one sinks and some young men die. Credit where credit is due. We'll address the $'s some other time I guess (how is it you can get a warranty on a $20K car, but not on a multi-million dollar warship?). If you look at the little ship in this article, it sure looks like the previously discussed USS New York, no? Well, they are not the same- apparently the Navy has a variety of similar looking ugly ships. The USS New York is a transport/assault kind of thing, and these other ones are San Antionio Class Destroyers. This doesn't matter for the purposes of this story, but I like to be accurate.
I saw the article and (while still under the impression these were the same boats) emailed it to him and said that it looked like calling the ship ugly was not the worst thing that could be said about it. His reply? I'll quote: "iT MAY BE UGLY, BUT DOES IT GET THE JOB DONE?"
Umm. No. It doesn't. It breaks in strong waves. Bad. Ugly and does not "get the job done". I really ought to reply in some way that uses the mouth-breathing-idiot mantra "[It don't] Git-R-Done". Maybe then it would sink in.
This is the best way I can illustrate what frustrates me so much in dealing with people these days- not just my father. It's not that I expect people to think like I do, or agree with me at all. I would appreciate it though if any disagreement could be somewhat enlightened by THOUGHT. I can and sometimes do go back and forth a few vollies with my father about these kinds of things, and in the end the outcome is the same. It ALWAYS results in his clear refusal to CONSIDER a different view, even when faced with significant evidence that cotradicts his entrenched opinion. It's always polite, which I suppose is something positive, but what the hell can you do with people who refuse to think when you present them with materials and ideas on a silver platter? And he fucking votes.
There is a guy I know who once said of the idiot masses- "If I don't tell them they are stupid, how will they know?" I always took this to be a joke statement, but maybe I've just been giving the benefit of doubt too often. Honestly, what can you do with people who can't or won't think?
So my question is this: Is this unwillingness to apply critical thought a characteristic of my father only, or people in general? Is it rooted in laziness or fear? Maybe just Baby Boomers? That would be kinda funny:
Baby Boomer #1 (Let's say, John Lennon): Imagine there's no heaven...
Baby Boomer #2 (my father): No.
Labels: Generation Gap