Things one could get done by the time Frodo finishes saying goodbye at the end of the last Lord of the Rings movie

Things one could get done by the time Frodo finishes saying goodbye at the end of the last Lord of the Rings movie:

 

-Write a blog post.

 

-Take up flash fiction.

 

-Learn a foreign language.

 

-Re-watch the first two movies.

 

-Re-organize your sock drawer.

 

-Re-organize all sock drawers, everywhere.

 

-Delete all social media apps from your phone and then twenty minutes later re-install them.

 

-Read a choose-your-own-adventure novel.

 

-Write a choose-your-own-adventure novel.

 

-Have a mid-life crisis and then reflect on it.

 

-Google Elijah Wood to see what he’s up to these days.

 

-Discuss with wife what Elijah Wood is probably doing right now, right this second.

 

-Call up Elijah Wood and invite him to come have dinner and meet your family.

 

-Find out he can’t make it; he’s still saying goodbye at the end of the last Lord of the Rings movie.

Calling Out My Fellow White Males

The Southern Poverty Law Center has been tracking hate groups and hate crimes since 1971.

The SPLC has verified 1,094 “bias-related incidents” in the period from November 9th (the day after the election) to December 12th of 2016.

The majority of these incidents (29%) were “Anti-Immigration” in nature.

A white male, for example, told a woman who he thought was Mexican that, “I can’t wait until Trump asks us to rape your people and send you back over the biggest damn wall we’re going to build. Go back to hell, wetback.”

20% of the incidents were Anti-Black.

In Massachusetts, a white male called a 14-year old boy riding his bike in front of his house a nigger.

10% of the incidents were Anti-Muslim.

In Washington State, two white male students pulled the hijab off of another student. They were each suspended for five days. When asked why they had done it, one responded, “We won.”

Listen: (that’s right; I’m stealing rhetorical strategies from Vonnegut)

Listen: Not all Trump supporters are racist/sexist/xenophobic/bigoted/fill-in-the-blank. Of course not. And not all white male Trump supporters are [insert same].

But listen: that racists and sexists and xenophobes and bigots feel emboldened and/or validated by Trump’s election is undeniable.

37% of the bias-related incidents from November 9th to December 12th referenced Trump by name or a slogan of his campaign or “his infamous remarks about sexual assault.” (In case anyone’s forgotten, his infamous remarks about sexual assault were that if you’re famous, you can just grab them by the pussy.)

46% of the incidents occurred in the days immediately following the election.

At Baylor University, a white male shoved a female black student off of the pavement. He told her “No niggers allowed on the sidewalk.” When a bystander asked the man what he was doing, the man responded, “I’m just trying to Make America Great Again.”

Here’s another interesting statistic: of the 1,094 bias-related incidents from November 9th to December 12th, only 4% were “Anti-Woman” in nature.

BUT: Of the 37% of incidents that referenced Trump and/or his campaign, 82% were Anti-Woman.

Two white males in Virginia yelled at a woman crossing the street that “You better be ready because with Trump, we can grab you by the pussy even if you don’t want it.”

In New York, a white male told a girl taking the subway to school that it was now legal for him to grab her pussy.

So here’s a message to my fellow white males.

First: if you are a white male who harbors hatred toward those who deviate from either “white” or “male” (or both) and who allows said hatred to manifest itself in either word or deed, then you are a horrible, horrible human being who either…

A) will remain a horrible, horrible human being until your lonely death…

or

B) will someway, somehow (in Ebenezer Scrooge fashion) come to see the errors of your ways, appropriately revising them and thereby becoming either less horrible or not at all horrible.

Listen: the truth is that you really just hate yourself. Rightly so! And now that you have been so informed, kindly redirect said hatred appropriately.

For the rest of us: it is contingent upon us not-horrible-horrible white males to resist and reject the words and actions of our (horrible, horrible) brethren. It is the right thing to do, and the American thing to do.

We must also be aware that when that resistance and rejection is quiet/silent/unheard, it in fact (or in effect) does not exist.

We must also call things as they are. One of Trump’s selling points was his lack of political correctness. People are tired of being politically correct.

Let’s extend that to bigots. Let’s call bigots bigots. And likewise call racism racism, sexism sexism, and homophobia homophobia.

And let’s call the Alt-Right what it is: white nationalism. Changing the name masks the connotations.

Listen: Donald Trump won the election. That is a fact. But what is also a fact is that despite his victory the majority of Americans did not vote for him.

Here’s another fact: the future of our country—the future generations of voters—are more tolerant, more inclusive, and value diversity more than their ancestors.

The bigots are outnumbered, and they are running out of time. This country is leaving them behind. Rightly so. But they are going kicking and screaming, and for the next four or eight or however-many-years-it-takes, they will fight.

And it is important that we—the non-horrible, non-deplorable white males—engage in that fight and stand beside our fellow (non-white and/or non-male) Americans who (for the next four or eight or however-many-years-it-takes) are most vulnerable.

I’m not saying it’s up to us to ride in and save the day. I’m saying that we need to realize we have a dog in this fight, and to show up for it.

 

Borges at Disneyland

I read a lot of Borges.

My critical thesis in grad school was on Borges’s influence on the fiction of John Barth.

There’s a framed illustration of Borges in the hallway of my house, surrounded by pictures of my family. The Borges picture is bigger than the other pictures.

See:

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In Borges’s fiction, there is a finite number of possibilities–a finite number of things that can happen to an individual–so what separates, or sets apart, each individual is the particular things that happen to each of them, and to Borges these particulars are limited by time, so that if everyone was immortal, then all things would happen to all people, and all people would therefore become one person. Each individual, for instance, would at some point write Hamlet, so each individual would be Shakespeare (or would have lived the particular events of Shakespeare’s life), but each individual would also be Justin Bieber, having also lived the life of Justin Bieber.

Because of this worldview, characters in Borges’s stories (for example: The Immortal, Shakespeare’s Memory, Borges and I) often blend into one another (or, to put it another way, using Borges’s common motif of the mirror: characters become reflections of one another).

And that’s what I kept thinking about when we took our kids to Disneyland.

Everywhere I looked, I saw a reflection of myself (or, to put it another way: everywhere I looked, I saw my own life being lived by hundreds and hundreds of other men).

For example, here’s a picture of my kid eating a churro. I’m not in the picture, but there’re at least four other versions of me that are in the picture. Can you spot them?

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And, of course, it’s not just me. The lives of my wife and of my kids are repeated over and over, as well. Some of those repeats are in this picture, too.

Take, for another instance, the picture above of Borges in my hallway. Next to Borges is a (much smaller) picture of me and my wife and my mother and my kids with Mickey Mouse. What the picture does not show is that we had waited in a long line of families (dozens of families) all of whom took that same picture, and that same long line had formed dozens of times over the course of that day, as it did and as it will do on all other days, including today, such that thousands of thousands (millions?) of families have the same picture with Mickey Mouse hanging on their wall (though probably not next to a picture of Borges).

So we are all at the same place having an individual experience that thousands of other people are also having on the same day and that thousands and thousands (millions!) of other people also have had or will have on each day prior and each day after the day that we had it.

Yet: it’s an incredibly individual and magical experience. Or at least Day One is magical.

Most of the people who are on that day living the same life as you are living either Day One or Day Two (for some, there is also a Day Three, but for almost all, there is Day One and Day Two).

And because you are at Disneyland and not at California Adventure, then you and most of the other people who are also living your life (specifically, the ones with strollers and giant, over-stuffed diaper bags) are living Day One.

All of you individually planned a trip, and all of you are on Day One of that trip. Day One is Disneyland. Day Two is California Adventure. If there’s a Day Three, it’s back at Disneyland (which means that, everyone who is living Day One will encounter some people who are living Day Three, but it’s easy to tell the people living Day Three from the people living Day One: the people living Day Three are the people who look like they are trying to recreate the magic of Day One, quickly, before driving home, but failing).

It was pretty much the same when I was a kid, except that Day Two was Knot’s Berry Farm, or later Universal Studios, because when I was a kid California Adventure was the parking lot.

Anyway, Day One is magical. For everyone, but especially the kids. And the kids don’t know and probably wouldn’t care if they did know that thousands of other kids who are living an alternate version of the same life are also having an independently magical experience. Each of the dozens of kids who are lined up to meet Princess Aurora has the individual and magical experience of meeting Princess Aurora, and that experience is unaffected by its repetition for dozens in front and dozens behind (plus hundreds and thousands and millions who have done and will do the same on a day that at Disneyland always looks the same and that repeats itself into infinity)

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About Day Two:

Day Two is pretty awesome, but perhaps less magical. Day Two is about strategy and efficiency. Everyone living Day Two has lived the magic of Day One and is now going to get their money’s worth, because this s-word is expensive.

Day Two begins at the rope line. Everyone living Day Two has read on Pinterest that they need to get there (to California Adventure, where, as mentioned, Day Two is lived) before it opens and to line up at the rope line.

Some people who are living Day Two have read on Pinterest that as soon as the rope drops they need to speed walk straight to the line for the Cars Fast Pass.

Other people are living a version of Day Two in which the thing to do is to speed walk past the Fast Pass line and directly to the Cars ride itself.

A few people are living a version in which the thing to do is to go do something else other than Cars precisely because everyone else who is living Day Two is going straight for Cars, but this way of living Day Two basically means foregoing Cars altogether, and Cars is pretty awesome.

We lived the version of Day Two in which we went straight to the line for Cars. It was pretty awesome. We were glad we lived this version because the people who lived the version of Day Two in which they got into the line for the Cars Fast Pass had to wait a long time for that Fast Pass, and the Fast Passes were mostly for late that afternoon, and pretty soon they were gone altogether.

Anyway: everyone who is living Day Two has a strategy with which to conquer Day Two, most of those strategies meant to outsmart everyone else who is also living Day Two and who have the same or similar strategies.

The rest of Day Two is basically a contest to see who in the family first gets to the point that they’ve had so much fun they could kill someone.

And then the next yous arrive and you go home.