Thursday, August 27, 2009

Single in DC

This weekend was spent with several friends - all of us single and in our late 20s or 30s. It was an awesome weekend! I went to Six Flags and rode roller coasters, later that night I went to see Inglourious Basterds (excellent movie and worthy of another blog post altogether.) After the movie we went out for drinks and then after-hours get-together and some of us met for brunch the next day. It wasn't always the same people at every event, but there was anywhere from four to seven people at any given time.

During Sunday brunch, one of the girls said several times, "This has been a great weekend. I'm really happy we got together." She repeated it again later. "I just can't believe what a great weekend this was!"

A declaration with extreme disbelief that we could have fun might be insulting under normal circumstances. But no one was offended. We know that she is going through a breakup right now. Not a big, devastating, estate-dividing breakup, more like acceptance that it's not going to work out with the person she's been dating the last few months. No broken hearts, just that annoying feeling of knowing that yet another romantic relationship has fizzled and you are back to the flirtatious drawing board.

It was a great weekend spent with single, platonic friends and at one point, the inevitable conversation between came up - someone talking of setting someone else up with one of their friends, others frustrated because they don't have a boyfriend or girlfriend.

I just don't get it.

This is what's frustrating to me. This universally accepted belief that there is something wrong with being single. That being single means being lonely or being too selfish to commit to someone. Or being too "scared" of getting hurt.

Is it that difficult to belief that maybe, quite possibly, being single kicks ass?!?

Single people are fun. We are available. Literally! When you get the urge to go out an do something - see a movie or go to a bar, who do you call? Your single friends! We don't have to check in with anyone to make arrangements. We're social free agents.

I'm not judging anyone who is in a committed relationship. There is nothing wrong with either lifestyle. But when you get settled, you tend to stop looking outside the confines of your own nest. If you want to see a movie, you know who you'll go with. If you feel like going out to eat, you always ask the same person to go with you. If you need to vent about someone at work, or if you're feeling low and need an attaboy or attagirl, you know who's going to listen. If you are single, you get proactive and put more effort into your social life. You have to put yourself out there and stay in touch with people around you, and I find it to be a much more rewarding experience. We have all heard it a thousand times - no one else can make you happy, you have to make yourself happy. Those words are so true yet rarely ever followed. When you are single, you need to stop worrying about the pressure of settling down and take responsibility to make yourself happy.

Take this weekend for example. Six Flags was my idea. I have been wanting to go and it's getting to be the end of the summer, so I sent out an invitation to over 20 people. Of those 20+ people, four of us ended up going and we all had a great time. On our way back from the park, two of us wanted to see the same movie, so we invited the others and called a few people to join us. Some did, and others met up with us at a bar after the film. By the end of the night we were seven people strong and walking home at 1:30 in the morning planning for brunch the next day.

We all had a blast over theweekend, and I would argue that I had a much more enriching experience than had I gone to an amusement park, movie, and then brunch with one person.

If you are in a relationship and you are happy, I am happy for you. But to the rest of you - those who are in an unhappy relationship but afraid of being alone, those of you who are going through a breakup, and the people who are sitting around feeling bad about themselves because they are single - to you people I say, go out and meet new people and have fun. There is way too much pressure to settle down and not enough people celebrating the single life. And those of us who do, we generally do it silently because the rest of you start to judge. I know, all of you married folks hate us. That much is obvious in the way you encourage single people to join you in your misery.

Being single does kick ass, but in closing, I will concede one point. While I am a big advocate of the single life, sex is another matter altogether. Generally, it is not a good rule of thumb if you have been wanting to have sex to invite 20 people and then have fun with the four who show up. It's not quite the same arrangement as a trip to Six Flags. Sex complicates everything. And like the film I mentioned earlier, it is also fun, awesome and deserving of its own blog. (Preferably one that my parents don't read on a regular basis like this one.)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Do you want to be on TV? Do you have a handgun carry permit?

Have I got a deal for you!

Last week I caught this interview on MSNBC. It was after a presidential town hall meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The person being interviewed is William Kostric, who garnered much attention outside of the event and and afterward proceeded to be cussed out by Hardball host Chris Matthews for "...carrying a goddamn gun at a presidential event."

The desperation of the 24-hour news cycle never ceases to amaze me.

While I did not watch live footage of the gun-totin' protester, I did see an endless number of close-ups of Mr. Kostric's unconcealed weapon strapped to his leg. I can only imagine how this footage came to existence. I picture it now - the news cameras surveying the crowd, noticing the protester with a gun and the cameras suddenly swarming upon him. Speculation on a handgun outside a presidential event makes for great filler when they have to fill the downtime. It spurred quite a bit of controversy.

This controversy annoys me greatly. I especially like the part of Matthews' interview where he asks Kostric if he's part of the "birther movement" and pesters the man to ask repeatedly if he believes President Obama is a legitimate president of the United States. How disappointing it must have been for the host to find that his guest refused to rant about birth certificates like a true anti-Obama zealot.

While Kostric comes across as someone who is not accustomed to television exposure, he does not present himself as a zealot. He legally and openly carried a firearm without incident while protesting. The only chaos that ensued was in response to the media overexposure of this non-incident. Yesterday, the daily poll question in the Washington Post Express was Should it be illegal to carry guns outside presidential events? I can't even believe this is starting a national dialogue when there was no incident. As Kostric says in the interview, he wasn't doing anything illegal. Which Matthews answers by pointing out "You can chew gum in church, you can ride in on a pogo stick. There's a lot of things you're legally allowed to do." His point being, that with America's history of assassinations, it is inappropriate to legally carry a gun near a presidential event.

It seems to me that our history of assassinations is the reason why President Obama has a presidential motorcade with bulletproof vehicles, secret service agents and metal detectors. Is the guy deliberately trying to make a statement by standing across the street from the event w/a handgun? Certainly. And it seems to have worked beyond his wildest expectations. By showing up carrying his gun, he got a great deal of media exposure by sources who have nothing better to report and with the bonus of starting a national dialogue about the second amendment.

Now, thanks to the media exposure of New Hampshire, everyone wants to make a statement and get on television. This is the part that bugs me. Here is how I see this playing out.

  • A guy in NH shows up to protest and straps his piece to his leg, hoping that it will attract attention and give him the opportunity to stand up for 2nd amendment rights.
  • Said guy ends up with media exposure and succeeds in starting (again!) a national dialogue about gun laws and the likelihood of a presidential assassination.
  • The Second Amendment argument gets the masses on both sides of the issue worked up - as it always does.
  • People start showing up to more events with more guns just to make their point.
  • Eventually all of the attention turns it into a circus, and yes, inevitably someone will do something stupid and someone may get hurt.
  • Because the debate will escalate as it always does and someone will cross the line as they always do.
  • If (God forbid!) there is an incident, the anti-gun activists will be vindicated. They can be sure to thank the media once again.
  • Saturday, August 15, 2009

    Lines on Ale

    Now that I have cancelled HBO and ditched the expensive sports channels, I'm back to watching cable news networks when there's nothing on basic cable. I'm also back to remembering why it was worth the extra $30 per month to have the extra channels. The other night I watched Keith Obermann until I couldn't tolerate any more. Then I switched over to the O'Reilly Factor until I couldn't tolerate anymore. That continued on - back and forth until I lost the will to live. About ten times back and forth by 15 minutes into the hour.

    Tonight I caught an episode of Glenn Beck's program where he does not compare the Obama administration to Nazi Germany. If you have not heard about this particular episode, Beck begins by talking about eugenics, Nazi Germany's racial politics, and healthcare reform in the United States. Beck repeats several times that he does not believe that Barack Obama is advocating eugenics, nor does he believe that Obama wants to "Pull the plug on Grandma" as he has been accused of with the so-called "Death Panels." Beck removes himself from these preposterous claims and says that is NOT what he is trying to say. Then he points out the reasons why the same philosophy in Nazi Germany may be an unintended consequence of the proposed healthcare reform. He makes no accusations that Obama's intention has any comparison eugenics of Nazi Germany, but all intentions aside - in a crisis situation, he points out why it may be a likely result if the current healthcare reforms are passed. He also goes on to suggest that the people Obama surrounds himself with may be capable of such unthinkable acts. All the time repeating that he is making no accusations on Obama's intentions whatsoever.

    As Glenn Beck introduces his guests, I can't help but greet them with, "Nice to meet you. Your career is over." "Nice to meet you, your career is also over..." I'm watching and I'm shocked because I know - you can not mention Nazi Germany when speaking of the President of the United States. There are few things at all that you can make a logical and reasonable comparison to Hitler without sounding like a crackpot and losing credibility. This is especially so if you are reporting on Fox News. Likewise, if you are reporting on MSNBC making the same comparison with George W. Bush. Credibility is slim in this argument. I'm sure that the producers of this program knew how provocative this program would be, and they went ahead with it. I have to give them credit, they undoubtedly knew what kind of reaction it would get.

    While I am shocked by the audacity of Beck's claims, I can't say as I necessarily disagree with part of his argument. If I try my best to be objective, I must admit I will never refute the possibility of the way this country may react to a crisis situation. If his argument is (as it appears to be) that in an economic crisis, we may begin pulling the plug on grandma as a desperate attempt to save younger patients, I can't really refute that. I really wouldn't refute any claim against our government or the American public if it began with "In a crisis situation..." Frankly, our country has a history during crisis situations to do some incredibly fucked up things.

    Think of it this way - had there been a 24-hour news cycle and a 1942 version of Glenn Beck on a radio program claiming, "Japanese Americans beware!! President Roosevelt wants to drag American citizens from their homes and put them into camps!" He would not have been taken any more seriously than the current claims of Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity against Obama on their Fox News programs. Even in this lifetime, had a partisan political medium made the claim in 2000 that terrorists would fly airplanes into buildings on live television while the entire country watched, we would have found the whole scenario preposterous. That's a movie, that's a fantasy. That is not reality. Terrorists decimating the World Trade Center? Flying into the Pentagon? Taking over aircrafts armed only with box cutters? That just screams conspiracy theory. Yet, we all watched it happen didn't we? What if someone had told us that following said terrorist attack, the entire country would spend billions of dollars in resources and countless human lives taking over government and rebuilding a country unrelated to this this terrorist attack? C'mon! What are we? Idiots?!?

    Well... yeah, we are.

    I love this country and I think we are afforded a lot of freedoms we take for granted. (One of which is the free press that brings us these 24-hour news networks.) And for some reason, we think we are a lot smarter than we really are. This country has a long history of panicking in a crisis situation. Don't ever underestimate what this country is capable of when faced with a real fear (Like 9/11, like Pearl Harbor...) Death Panels, euthanizing elderly people... in a crisis situation? You bet. The politics of fear could easily sell this to America. Hell, people could even be scared into forming militias to be sent into senior citizen centers. History has informed me and I would not rule it out. When Americans fear our freedom and our lifestyle - we will support things that are clearly preposterous with the benefit of foresight or hindsight.

    Here's the problem with Glenn Beck. The politics of fear may work in a certain demographic - in this case the elderly (which also happen to be largely Republican) may take Beck's suggestions gravely serious. But when the overall population has the benefit of foresight and logical thinking, they will clearly identify this as fearmongering. For the same reason they would not have believed Japanese internment camps would be a possibility, for the same reason none of us would would ever have been prepared for a group of well-organized terrorists to take over aircrafts with box-cutters and change our lives forever. For the same reason that forming a detention center in Cuba for terrorists, exempt from U.S. protocol would seem far-fetched. Had Keith Obermann gone on his show with a panel warning us of that outcome, it would seem just as preposterous as the Republicans do with their claims of Death Panels, eugenics, and granny mercy killings.

    Glenn Beck may have crossed a line by drawing parallels between Nazis and Obama's healthcare reform and he probably won't be surprised to feel backlash and loss of sponsorship. Fearmongering is effective only when there is a clear and present danger. In this country, people are more afraid of the state of healthcare as it exists now. People who are struggling or unable to pay for insurance and medical bills could be in a crisis situation right now, and that is the fear they are responding to, not the fear of death panels or eugenics.