Monday, June 30, 2008

I try to figure out Republicans and lose my grip on reality

I keep hearing this weird rumor that Republicans are fond of small government and, following that belief, are of the opinion that strong-arm federal officials have no place dictating how we manage our personal affairs.

Like whispers in the wind, I hear this small-government schtick whenever God-fearing GOP soldiers lambaste national health care ("Why, you don't want the nasty government making your medical decisions!") or decry the so-called liberal elitists who are apparently using their superior intellectual prowess to control the masses. The same intellectual prowess, I might add, that was gleaned from the halls of the same Ivy league institutions that many Republican politicians once walked. But, as we all know, attending Harvard is only a sign of elitism if you're a Democrat.

Anyway, then I read the news, and I see stories about "small-government" Republicans who support warrantless spying on Americans, or a Republican attorney general in Alabama who wants to enforce a law criminalizing the use of sex toys among private citizens. I read this shit, and I get confused. Eavesdropping on my phone calls? Banning sexual devices? Why, that sounds like something an intrusive, big government would do!

The latter example of Troy King, the Alabama AG, is just a highlight of Republican insanity infecting our nation's proud tradition of doing whatever the fuck we want in our own bedrooms. King, who may or may not have a penis, is pushing the Alabama Legislature to toughen up an earlier law it passed banning vibrators and other such "obscene" devices. This news immediately led me to the obvious conclusion: Perhaps Republicanism is just the inherent result of extreme sexual frustration.

King's courageous crusade against the insidious orgasm should be an inspiration to us all. I can't help but wonder whether King's first wife died in a bizarre dildo tragedy, sparking his lifelong mission to rid the Earth of sex toys. An image popped into my head of King as a young man, standing in a blood-soaked room, holding up a vibrator and tearfully vowing to his dead wife's soul: "Never again!" Then I gouged out my frontal lobes in a moment of awful soul-wrenching terror.

Not to be deterred by the sudden and debilitating lobotomy that resulted in the knowledge that this man is trying to criminalize sexuality, I was able to scan the GOP's official party platform before slipping into sweet unconsciousness. I kept looking for the part where the GOP overlords explain how vibrators are tantamount to terrorist activity, or how the party is in lockstep behind their elected leaders banning the sale of fake vaginas. Alas, nothing.

I should point out, however, that I did read a whole lot about the importance of upholding marriage as a sacred right between a man and a woman, but nothing about whether said man and woman should be allowed to use a vibrating piece of plastic in their own bedrooms. So, for those of you keeping score, just remember: Heterosexual marriage: good; Sexual freedom: bad.

Jesus, no wonder these people are so pissed off.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Roving lunatic

A report is floating around the Internet that Karl Rove, the man responsible for the past eight years of George W. Bush terrorizing America, accused Barack Obama of being an elitist. Personally, I can't possibly fathom why people still quote Rove, who boasts a long career as a shameless liar, cunning manipulator and prolific propagandist.

Here's what he said:

ABC News' Christianne Klein reports that at a breakfast with Republican insiders at the Capitol Hill Club this morning, former White House senior aide Karl Rove referred to Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, as "coolly arrogant."

"Even if you never met him, you know this guy," Rove said, per Christianne Klein. "He's the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by."

The implication here is that Obama is just another arrogant liberal who lords his good fortune and status over those who apparently lack his charisma and boyish good looks. The problem is that this notion is not supported by anything but blatantly false stereotypes that liberals are oppressive elitists (after all, isn't it the conservatives who flaunt their religious beliefs over other people and believe they can do this marriage thing better than everybody else?)

Obama -- who is married to a woman who grew up in the ghettos of Chicago's south side, not the luxurious Connecticut pastures of Rove's coveted Bush family -- started his career at a community center in south Chicago, helping the poor. After receiving his law degree, he was elected to the Chicago state Legislature, where he increased tax credits for low-income workers and cracked down on predatory lenders. While Rove was thriving in his innate ability to elect money-grubbing, corrupt Republicans, Obama was helping poor black kids get into college.

Yet, it's Obama who is the elitist. It's Obama -- the black guy -- who is more likely than Rove to stand in a fucking country club with a cigar in his hand. Riiiiight.

Jake Tapper of ABC News had some interesting insight on the matter:
Interesting that Mr. Rove would use a country club metaphor to describe the first major party African-American presidential candidate, whom I'm sure wouldn't be admitted into many country clubs that members of the Capitol Hill Club frequent.

But the picture Rove paints is interesting. Who, pray tell, is Rove at this country club?

The guy telling funny stories near the band?

The charming president of the club's philanthropic arm?

The brainy guy with all the sports scores?

Or the guy who vandalizes your car and blames it on the kitchen staff?

Side note: If you want to understand exactly how conservatives in this country have attempted to convince Americans that liberals are all elitists -- and why that idea is so ludicrous -- read "What's The Matter With Kansas" by Thomas Frank. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Back on the McCain gang

During my short visit to Japan in the past few weeks, I felt a lingering feeling -- a constant pang of distant awareness, too vague to grasp -- as though something vitally important (or vitally apocalyptic) was missing from my life. As the days passed and I was entrenched in the vastly peaceful feeling of disconnection, I realized what it was that I had abandoned back home: The fluidly constant stream of bullshit, lies and treachery that is American politics.

Luckily, the moment I arrived back in the glorious republic to end all republics, I was bombarded by the Great American Cynicism, and I can happily say I am once again swimming in the discontent that accompanies any exposure to this wasteland of political circus clowns. And as I drove down the interstate from the airport -- grateful to be behind the wheel instead of screaming in terror as my dad navigated Asian roads -- a curious thing happened. I felt great. I felt at home. I fucking love this country!

No, not the wave-the-flag-and-masturbate-to-your-Hummer kind of love for this country. It's more the I'm-watching-a-trainwreck-and-can't-look-away kind of fascination. For some reason, I feel much more accomplished writing about the crushing depression of American politics while I'm actually in the nation in question -- not thousands of miles away, where I'm virtually immune to the fallout of fascist Republican religious fanatics preaching "small government" glory while systematically working to rape Americans of our rights to watch what we want, marry who we want and say what we want. The fight for preserving the classic American rights to freedom is just not as fulfilling on foreign soil.

That being said, I'm happy to report that, while once reluctantly acknowledging that John McCain could possibly be the closest thing to principled that any Republican has ever achieved, I've finally realized that he is just another opportunistic vulture in an endless sky of spineless, two-faced political scavengers. How do I know this? Well, in order to win his unlikely victory to our nation's highest office, he's attempting to be more Republican: That is to say, he's rejecting all his purported "moderate" beliefs about freedom and decency in favor of a discriminatory police state that is more aligned with the GOP.

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that Bush has basically pissed on the Constitution by seizing people from foreign nations and throwing them in U.S. military prisons with no access to the fundamental rights granted to U.S. citizens, McCain boldly told the nation: "I think it's one of the worst decisions in history. It opens up a whole new...interpretation of our Constitution."

Interesting. Sounds like a normal response from a man who has recently discovered his undying love for the Bush administration, despite the fact that Karl Rove torpedoed McCain's primary campaign in 2000 by circulating a rumor in South Carolina that the senator had fathered an illegitimate black child (but I digress). Of course, McCain's tone on Guantanamo detainees is a bit different from his rhetoric back in 2007, when he was still a long-shot candidate and didn't have to worry about rallying his base around a guy who was basically a Democrat. Here's what he told Fox News Sunday on April 2, 2007, when asked "how (he would) fight the War on Terror differently than it's being fought now":

McCain: I would probably announce the closing of Guantanamo Bay. I would move those detainees to Fort Leavenworth. I would announce we will not torture anyone. I would announce that climate change is a big issue, because we've got some image problems in the world. Clearly, in the area of "propaganda," in the area of the war of ideas, we are not winning--well, in some ways we are behind. Al-Jazeera and others maybe, in my view--may sometimes do a better job than we are. At the end of the day, it's how people make up their minds as to whether they want to embrace our values, our standards, our ideals, or whether they want to go the path of radical Islamic extremism, which is an affront to everything we stand for and believe in.

Right. So, in 2007 McCain bitches that the treatment of Guantanamo detainees is an affront to American values, and we should just close the goddamn place, and we shouldn't torture, and oh yeah we should probably do something about the world thinking we're a bunch of brutish totalitarian hypocrites because we don't afford "enemy combatants" any legal rights. Now, just a year later and facing heavy criticism about his waning conservative credentials, McCain says granting basic rights to the prisoners -- including such outlandish ideas as hearing the charges against them or facing their accusers -- is "one of the worst decisions in history."

That's a pretty bold statement, considering the Supreme Court has put out more than its share of disastrous and misguided decisions. To name a few:

* Dred Scott v Sandford: U.S. Supreme Court rules that African Americans shipped to the United States for the purposes of slavery could never become U.S. citizens and were the rightful property of slave owners.

* Plessy v. Ferguson: U.S. Supreme Court upholds racial segregation as constitutional.

Anyway, you get the picture. McCain may have been a legitimate moderate -- and, quite possibly, very genuine in his beliefs -- at one point. But that day has long passed, replaced now by the ambitions of a career politician who believes he can ride his Vietnam torture record straight to the Oval Office. He's Bush Light, and if he wins, he'll either continue down the path of insane neo-conservatism, or he'll revert back to his moderate ways and expose himself to be the shameless con man many believe him to be. Either way, we all lose. Big time.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Back in the U.S.A.

I'm back. Updates to come again soon. Jet lag is a bitch.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Dispatches from Nippon

MAEBASHI, Japan -- Things have changed since I was last here.

I'm no international sociologist with my finger on the pulse of Japanese culture, but this city appears to have transformed into an imperialistic tourist's wet dream. To wit, I can look out my window and gaze into the depressing plastic nightmare of a McDonald's sign. Down the road from that endless symbol of American flatulence, I arrive at a shopping mall, complete with alien florescence and trendy fashion shops.

Now this might not seem like a big deal to the average American, but to somebody who was here just eight years ago and hadn't even considered the possibility of a shopping mall, it was a frightening blow of reverse culture shock. The mall's consumerist glory actually made me feel at home, which is exactly what I was trying to avoid by coming here. Who wants to fly 10 hours over the Pacific Ocean and feel at home?

Yet, I'm also reminded of the simple, chaotic beauty of this place. Aside from the corporate fast food chains and capitalistic shopping extravaganzas, this country has taken every aspect of American culture and reversed it. I am constantly plunged into a state of acceptence and friendliness. I was in a restaurant today, and my server was delighted by the fact that I didn't speak a lick of Japanese. In America -- where those who lack English skills are demonized and insidious lawmakers attempt to pass Official Language laws -- my lack of communication ability would be looked at with scorn. Here, it's just amusing. I feel a constant sense of adventure with my inability to read or speak, mostly because getting lost isn't really a big deal. An overwhelming sense of safety permeates this land, whereas in America, a wrong turn in a similar big city could lead to disaster.

Being American in this town is probably similar to being black in Eugene, minus the racism. Here, I'm part of a very small minority. It feels oddly refreshing. The people here are gracious and welcoming, and it's hard not to feel a little like a rock star. People are curious, and they stare, but only because it's such a rarity for an American to walk down the street.

This weekend I hope to travel to the countryside, where the real rugged beauty of Japan emerges. It's simply impossible to experience this unspoiled wilderness and come out without a renewed sense of humanity. It's probably the closest thing to spiritual enlightenment that a career nonbeliever like myself will ever achieve.


Yesterday I played with my little sister for the first time in too many years. The last time I saw her, she was just about big enough for me to hold with one arm. I have a vivid memory of taking her into the China Sea -- her first experience in a large body of water -- and watching with amusement as the Japanese beachgoers stared at this foreigner strutting down the sand with a cute 2-year-old in tow. This was, of course, back when I could take off my shirt at the beach and not feel flubby -- the unfortunate result of beer, pizza and a day job.

My sister is half Japanese, but I can see the resemblence to my bloodline very clearly. Her mouth is, unfortunately, a victim of the Montry family heritage of bad teeth (as is my little brother's acne), but her smile is contagious. We went to the park, and she attempted to translate the rules of her Japanese games in a way I would understand. I pretended to know what she was talking about, but in the end I was only able to comprehend a mix between soccer and hide-and-seek. She seemed content with that, and the fact that she was mercilessly kicking my ass at this game.

Later, we played Uno, and I had no choice but to smile and laugh when she blatently cheated. With one eye on me at all times to ensure I didn't notice, she would deal herself a bunch of Draw 4 cards, and at the end of the game she would lay them all down in victory. I couldn't possibly stop her. Her eyes would grow very wide after the cards were dealt, and she would exclaim, as if in total surprise at her good fortune: "Oooooh, rucky!" Even with American blood pumping through her veins, the characteristic Japanese inability to pronounced the "L" sound was too hilarious for me to pass up. Then we ate sushi.