Friday, July 28, 2017

an era of cowardice

When I was a kid, I went to a school that raised farm animals. Each day, a certain number of students would go to the barn, gather eggs, milk the cow and muck out the horses' stalls and then curry, feed and water them. Afterwards everyone would return to the school dining room for breakfast. The result was that the dining room always smelled softly of the horse manure so recently disposed of. Some people may dislike the smell of horse manure, but for the rest of my life I have associated the smell with warmth and comfort and a full stomach. It is like smelling your mother.

The mirror image of that sense of coziness asserts itself in my life today.

I live in an era of cowardice and I don't like it. The stink rubs off on me and I am not proud of my cowardice. I need a shower that will wash me off right down to a place of my beginnings and I doubt if I am alone.

What is a coward? A coward -- the kind that everyone has encountered in school or at work or even at home -- is simply the man or woman or philosophy that cannot or will not own up to his her or its own pronouncements or actions. A coward cannot examine and take responsibility. A coward diverts attention, as with American-flag lapel pins or the insistent use of the word "hero" to describe dead people who are no longer in a position to defend themselves or correct those who imagine that cowardice and praise are not the same.

There is a difference between acknowledging that everyone has a capacity for cowardice and making cowardice the law of the land. I know no man or woman of good sense who simply cannot drum up the energy or courage for one thing or another. Eg.: Even when snakes are benign, still they can arouse a shivering inability to act. And lord knows everyone has made a mistake which, with courage, they can work to correct.

Recently, the man most obvious in this era of cowardice, President Donald Trump, said he was against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people serving in the military. (1.3 million totality -- LGBT guesstimates range from 1,320 to 6,630) He made the statement publicly. As the commander in chief of the military, the public nature of the utterance has power. As the coward in chief, he is already backing away and letting others cope with the mess he made. The military establishment said it would wait for an order before acting on the implications of Trump's announcement. So far, no such order has been issued.

And that is another marker in this era of cowardice: Raising issues that raise hackles but accomplish nothing. It looks as if the LGBT issue is important and in one sense it may be. But in a very real sense, it is a coward's diversion. If all the LGBT troops were somehow miraculously expunged from military life, what, precisely, would be accomplished? If someone saves your life in a firefight, do you ask what color they are or what sex ... or any other foolish question? It is beyond stupid -- and it is damned near obscene in its segregationist echoes.

In the midst of the LGBT dust storm, it is hard to winkle out what is being accomplished. Health care is entangled like a kitten in a ball of yarn. And the coward in chief remains talkative but aloof and lets others clean up his mess. Tax reform nags like a splinter under the finger nail and the coward and chief remains talkative but aloof. Infrastructure remains unfixed and former coal miners still don't have jobs. And the coward in chief remains talkative but aloof. Hammering out compromises between left and right is hardly the sound heard in the D.C. smithy. Foreign affairs are reconfigured in the coward in chief's mouth but of course the coward in chief can only acknowledge what is "very, very" good and redounds to his credit. Climate change is ... oh well, it's the same story on a different day: dismantle what is and claim credit for what might be even if nothing gets done.

I shudder at the notion of compiling a laundry list of the ways in which my era has turned to cowardice as a place of solace and certainty. There is the coward in chief leading the parade, but the era has devolved with him into a kerfuffle of trying to clean up his messes. Everyone is scrambling. And everyone stinks of the body odor of cowardice -- the me-me-me paradoxically coupled with it's not-my-fault or that's-not-what-I-meant.

I'm sick of it. Doesn't there come a time when anyone might literally rather die than have one more twig added to the bonfire of cowardice?

Yes, I have the capacity for cowardice. Yes, I do what I can to live with it. But no, I refuse to decline the responsibilities that are mine. This does not make me courageous in any flag-waving sense. It just means I prefer to aim for decency instead of horse shit. No lapel pins. No heroes. No passing the buck.

This is mine: The bathroom mirror.


  1. I avoid mirrors anymore. I feel bad, why should i know that i look bad?

  2. These days a friend of mine suggested watching a couple of episodes of RuPaul's Drag Queen Competition.

    Perhaps Mr. Trump should watch it. It makes a good case of how gay men can not only be fiercely vicious and cruel, even to eachother, but even go as far as being in-your-face honest about it and making an art form out of it.

    Some may say "a dog that barks doesn't bite" - and maybe they're right - but I rather not face a well-trained RuPaul carrying a machine gun... Just in case.

    In any case, even if RuPaul's queens' precision with a gun were only half of what they show with words, they'd still be deadlier than a draft-dodger.

  3. Writing that last comment did make me wonder if, in the end, barring LGBT from the battlefield might come down to high-rank desk officers and presidential draft-dodgers feeling somewhat humiliated and "less manly than what they should"...

    A gay man or woman doing a job that I - a "real man" - rather not? Maybe it hurts their manly pride...

  4. You make a good case. I'll make another - keep your eye on your targets.

    Trump or someone on his team learned the lesson of distract. But, yes, it could also be that Donald has the attention span and moral sensibilities of a 6 year old. Either way, if we believe Affordable Health Care, and rights and respect for all, then stay the course.

    BTW- I wrote and thanked John McCain for his vote. Yes, it did occur to me that the Republicans had to put a show on for their base. I still thanked McCain.