America Fantasyland Part 1

Disneyland, the epitome of the American dream. If you believe hard enough and spend a lot of money, all of your dreams will come true.

Good god. Has it really been just over a year since Donald J Dumbass was elect president? How are you holding up? I haven’t handled it well and it shows. To quote Hamlet, “I have of late lost all my mirth”. I’ve lost the passion to blog, to read, and to some extend I’ve been far to slow to move past the last election.

Looking back to November 8th, 2016, it is clear to me now that I’ve spend the last year going through the five stages of grief. At first I denied it, (oh he’ll never take office-he looks as stunned as the rest of us), then I felt anger, to the point of rage when he was finally sworn in, and then on to a long bout of depression as I watched him make a mockery of the office of the Presidency and everything it stands for. Worse yet, watching as Congress defends his shredding of our Constitution and the principals on which is was written.

The last stage of grief, according to Elisabeth Kubler Ross, is acceptance. No, I am not there yet; I can’t bring myself to say his name and the title President in the same sentence, but I can say I am starting to accept the fact that millions of Americans voted for him. I’ve spent the last year trying to figure out why.

Like many of my fellow liberal Americas I know people who did in fact not only vote for him, but did so not out of a sense of irony or sadistic glee, but because they honestly fell for his bullshit. And not just his bullshit, but also the bullshit being flung around by social media and the sharing of said bullshit. No, seriously, how do you fall for a guy who on one hand says, “I’ll hire the smartest people” and on the other says, “I am your voice, I alone can fix it”. Fix what?? The guy filed for bankruptcy four times! How do you lose money owning a casino?? Damn, I may still be in the anger stage. Moving on.

My questions of why expanded beyond wanting to know why so many people I know and respect (and millions I don’t know) fell for his con. But not just his con; cons and hoaxes in general. Truth be told, I’ve been asking myself for quite a while now, “is America becoming dumber”? Long time followers know this is a topic I hit on once in a while. In 2014 I reviewed a book titled “Idiot America” in which I talked about the dumbing down of America. Who knew two years later millions of voters would prove me right?

I made some connections between our decline in good judgment and religious like idolization of all things connect to consumerism that seems to be paving the way for a dumber America. Whether we are talking about materialism (I’ll feel better, look better, be better, if only I had X) or how we greedily consume our news and “information” without an ounce of critical thinking. How did we become the nation whose mantra seems to now be, “It feels right, so it must be true”?

I wish I could say after careful study of our culture I came to a solid answer; that my months in hiding have given me insight to what is wrong with our country, but I have to give credit to a book I recently picked up. Kurt Andersen’s book, “Fantasyland How America Went Haywire” put a lot of things in perspective and helped me connect the dots. I can’t say it’s a great book (although I do recommend it) as Andersen does tend to veers off into weedy thinking, and expresses some personal opinions in order to make a view seem like fact. Ironically this is the very thing his book argues is wrong with America. Yet some of his simplest statements are powerful truths and should be recognized as such.

America was created by people resistant to reality checks and convinced they had special access to the truth, a place founded to enact grand fantasies. (p.72)

Andersen begins his book with the European explores who risked their lives (and reputations) for the promises of golden mountains waiting to be plundered, and the mystical Fountain of Youth. He then quickly moves to the Puritans with their idea of a religious utopia; setting the stage for a history of people who are resistant to reality checks, even as reality hits back. There were not mountains of gold, or flowing waters of eternal youth. There was no religious utopia; instead, to the Puritans utter shock, there were “pagan savages” everywhere they looked.

One would have thought that the Puritans would’ve had the good sense to go home as so many had done when it was discovered there was no easy spoils to be had, but no. They believed they could convert the savages, and when that didn’t work later generations set out to annihilate them, firmly believing it was their God given right to do so.

Andersen’s book pulls the veil off the myth of American exceptionalism and exposes the truth of how we became fantasyland. How today we’d rather listen to our gut or a conspiracist, rather than a medical doctor. How our political views are shaped by labels rather than ideas. Why being offended now allows us the “right” to protest and boycott free speech and opposing views. And so much more.

Andersen may not have gotten everything right; his bias against religion shows loud and clear and clouds some of his thinking about what is found strictly in America and what is not. Yet he gets enough right that his book is a jumping-off point for cultural self-reflection and deep discussion. So much so, that in the coming weeks it will be the focus of my posts. We will look at various stops on our journey to fantasyland. It is my hope that in time we begin to reflect on what came before and how it has shaped our understanding of who we are now and what improvements we can make so that Fantasyland doesn’t turn into Nightmareland.

 

 

Happy Towel Day to me!

I think we can all relate right now

“This must be Thursday,’ said Arthur to himself, sinking low over his beer. ‘I never could get the hang of Thursdays.”

For many literary geeks May 25th is a special day. It’s the day Douglas Adams fans show their love by celebrating Towel Day. Why May 25th? Sadly, it’s the day of his death, which happened on this day in 2001. If you’ve never read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy you probably are wondering if you read the first part right. Towel Day? What?? This is because one of the best pieces of advice given in the book concerns every traveler’s basic needs. Of all the things you should always have with you is a towel.

From the book:

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value — you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-tohand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

And yes, there have been years when I’ve celebrated the day by wrapping a towel around my neck; but only when I was sure my employer would not call the men in white coats to come get me.

May 25th has always been a special day for me. The nerd in me would like to point out that the first 6 opening days of the Star Wars series always fell on May 25th. It became a tradition in my family to go out and brave the lines in order to see the movies on opening day. You see, not only were we a hardcore Star Wars family, my birthday just happens to fall on, you guessed it, May 25th.

It’s been a hectic few months leading up to my special day. I did not say so before, but I’ve spent the last couple of months getting ready to move house. I did a lot of purging and boxing up only to come to the shocking realization that we have a housing shortage. Google, Apple, and Tesla are either moving in or expanding so more people are moving into the area than there are houses available. I had no idea how bad it was until I started to look for a place to downsize to. Leave it to me to do things backwards. I should have looked for a new house before clearing mine. For now I stay put, minus a lot of big furniture. At least I have my towels!

This is one of many reasons why I haven’t posted in a while. Just when I declared my finger healed, I hurt it again while packing. Once again it became too painful to type.

Between reality setting in that our area seems to be quickly becoming a mini Silicone Valley and my writing taking a hit, you’d think I wouldn’t have much to celebrate, but you’d be wrong. As crazy as 2017 is turning out to be for us all, I am finding that the second half of year may be something to celebrate on a personal level. I’m finding new professional opportunities are opening up for me. I have a wonderful core group of friends who have been by my side even as I freaked out about our housing crisis and will be with me to celebrate my day. I have wonderful friends all around the world who patiently and good-naturedly cheer me on, offer words of support and comforting criticism. Looking at where I am right now, I have no reason to feel down because no matter what happens on this journey called life, I have a strong sturdy metaphorical towel. I have all of you, and in the end really this is all you really need.

My gift to you today is a list of Adams quotes. His wit will never grow old and I for one will never tire of reading his work. I hope you enjoy it to.

The story so far:
In the beginning the Universe was created.
This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.

A learning experience is one of those things that says, “You know that thing you just did? Don’t do that.”

He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.

I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

Happy Towel day my friends!