How Much We Don’t Know

It was after a knock-down, drag-out political argument that my uncle said something profound.

We were celebrating Easter, and without any decent sports on television, our post-dinner conversation turned to politics. Even a moderate, much less a social liberal like myself, would have been the odd person out. Phrases like “those people” (Hispanics, Muslims), “that stuff” (Homosexuality), and best of all, “White people are the only minority left” were tossed around without reflection or critical thought.

I was too angry to be articulate and I failed to educate. Thankfully, one of my uncles saved the conversation, and my sanity, by saying that we’d all be better off “if everyone knew they’re not as smart as they think they are.”

On one level, that’s not enough. It’s too easy for someone to say “no one is as smart as they think they are” and believe that means that everyone is equally knowledgeable about anything. Neither my father nor I are as smart as we think we are, but that doesn’t mean our opinions on farming or social history are equivalent. They are not.

However, my uncle was right, assuming we take it the right way. Continue reading

Why Do You Love This?

Nike is a far better symbol for America than Columbia. Not only is Nike appropriate as the Goddess of Victory (Success in almost 90% of our military conflicts), but also as the Goddess of Just Doing a Thing. We do. We don’t think; frequently before, but especially after. For all America’s positive traits, we are not a nation of reflection.

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Some months back, I posted an essay claiming that American society places an extremely high value on violence. If this is true, the Western is easily the most “American” style of film.

After all, consider the subtext of every Western: Justice (read: violence) dispensed from the twin barrels of a righteous sawed-off shotgun. Others will fail you. Society will fail you. The law, most of all, will fail you. Your convictions, backed by a six-shooter (and a high-powered rifle for that guy on the rooftop), never will.

It doesn’t get more American than that.

Before I watched Unforgiven, I had never enjoyed a Western. Unforgiven, though, is perhaps less a Western than it is a deconstruction or critique of Westerns. Unforgiven took apart the myth of frontier justice and replaced it with something far messier and far uglier.

It asked the quintessentially un-American question: Why do you love this?

The violence of Unforgiven is merely pervasive; its consequences are inescapable. Continue reading

Assholes

Middle school sucked. I don’t think I could have placed the reason why at the time, but now I’m pretty sure that the reason middle school sucked was because it was full of assholes. Scores of small, hormone-inundated assholes who can’t value anything over themselves. It’s wasn’t totally their fault, but still… assholes.

So I waited until high school. Continue reading

Confessions of an Anglophile

After spending five days in London last summer, my friends and I took a train north to Edinburgh to spend our final week together in Britain. Our schedule slowed down. We checked out the gorgeous city at a leisurely pace. We slept in Dylan’s apartment instead of a random hostel where our shit could be stolen.

Yet, somehow, I felt out of place.

In London, I almost kamikazed a car driving in the “wrong” direction. I didn’t pick up the accent very quickly. I would last two minutes driving in London-proper. But there was no culture shock.

I felt at home. Continue reading

We All Got It Coming, Kid

(Editor’s note: Saturday afternoon I posted this on my website. By Saturday evening, a good friend of mine published a response/supplement. This is a continuation of that discussion. Erik, if there’s more to come, keep it coming.)

I can still remember the exact moment that I came to recognize my responsibility to the world. I had been raised well by two loving parents. I understood responsibility. I understood cause and effect. But I don’t think parents can teach collective guilt.

For that, my teacher was Clint Eastwood. Continue reading

Causation

The Sandy Hook Shooting made me think about guns, children, mental illness, the Bill of Rights, violent video games, and an assortment of related topics. I’ve also been thinking about collective guilt and the NFL. Concussions, suicide, premature deaths, and my role as an avid football fan have been weighing heavily on my mind since the death of Junior Seau, the first casualty whom I can remember watching play. I also play video games with violence and explosions. (Yay!)

While these topics might not seem connected, all three have led me to the same place. Our society’s glorification of violence doesn’t cause violence. It’s an effect. We glorify violence because, at heart, we are a violent people in a society that values violence. Continue reading

The Post My Mom Doesn’t Want To Read

I’ve never written or spoken about this before.

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My credentials as a Catholic are pretty well-established. Baptized, Eucharized, confirmed. Fruits and gifts memorized. Bible read. Parables understood and applied. Nineteen years of Catholic education. Campus ministry volunteer.

During college, things began to change. Continue reading

Aging Gracefully

London is an old city.

When I traveled to Britain to visit a friend studying in Edinburgh, we stayed in London for five days. We visited palaces that housed hundreds of years of monarchy. We visited castle walls where centuries of England’s sons had thrown down their lifeblood.

We visited the same Parliament building that ruled the seas since 1488, enforced Pax Britannica, balanced the powers of Europe, and controlled and colonized so much of the world that the sun, very literally, never set on the British Empire.

London feels like it has been there for thousands of years and makes you believe that it will remain for a thousand more, long after America crumbles. Continue reading

Nationalism, Sports, and Loss

I don’t care about the Olympics.

There. I said it.

While everyone else caught gold medal fever this summer and sang the praises of Olympic heroes old and new, I awaited the end of a long, ugly baseball season and the start of NFL Training Camp.

I don’t care about American athletes in international competition.

This contrasted strikingly with the people of Scotland during Wimbledon. No British tennis player had won a Men’s Final since Fred Perry in 1936. While I was visiting my friend Dylan in Edinburgh, Andy Murray, a Scotsman, made it to the Men’s Final against perhaps the greatest tennis player in history, Roger Federer. Continue reading

Surrealist Manifesto

During my recent trip to London, I finally came to understand what I enjoy about art. As I mentioned in a previous article, art was not always a part of my life. Heck, I wouldn’t say it’s a large part right now either, despite a newfound appreciation.

Although I won’t be mingling with socialites, sipping wine and nibbling on cheese at the next Walker fundraiser, I do lose myself in surrealist art in a way usually reserved for fire. Just as I could stare into a campfire for hours at a time, I could stand in front of a Salvador Dali or Yves Tanguy all day.

While stroking my beard thoughtfully. My beard is the source of all my intellectual power. Barely kidding.

While stroking my beard thoughtfully. My beard is the source of all my intellectual power. Barely kidding.

Dali and Tanguy are easily my favorite artists. Until London, I never understood why I loved these two and their fellow surrealists while I remained indifferent to nearly all others. Finally, as I stood stroking my beard in front of Tanguy’s Azure Day at the Tate Modern, I understood.

I love surrealism’s contrast. The known and the unknown. The beauty and the brutality. The logical and the impossible, Echoes of both the familiar and the deformed. It simultaneously could be, shouldn’t be, and is. It spurs me to keep looking within each work for an understanding that will never come.

I love the sense of possibility that surrealism’s provides. While the painting ends at its margins, the ideas go on forever. The frame encloses the work, but the mind cannot help but expand beyond its original borders.

Ultimately, this is why I love surrealist art.

Realism shows me one thing. It is what it is. The style and the method and the perspective changes, but mine does not.

Abstract art shows me nothing. It does, of course, try to express something, but I’m not going to do all the work for the artist. Meet me halfway. If your triangular box with a picture of Dave Foley at the center represents the emptiness of love, at least give me a hint.

Surrealism shows me anything. There’s enough there to draw upon what I know, but not enough for me to actually know. That contrast, and the possibility it creates, blows my mind every single time.

Now, if you need me, I’ll be over here with a Mich Golden, gnawing on a hunk of sharp cheddar.

Mmmmmm… sophistication.

/Gratuitous Simpsons Sound Effect

Some of my favorites after the jump. Continue reading