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A Rose By Any Other Name, Would Smell…Really Inconvenient.

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SCENE

THE SETTING:   A Sales Manager’s Office

TIME OF DAY:  4:30 p.m.

SCENE:  A brisk, wintry day in January.  A mid-level Sales Manager is preparing to interview a man for an open sales position.  He is tired.  He hasn’t looked at this latest resume, no time.  He is harried.  He is cold…intermittent heat in his office all day.  His assistant pages him to alert him that his next interview is in two minutes. Sales Manager is annoyed.  This is his fourth interview of the day.  The three previous candidates looked good on paper, but lacked that certain “something” needed in sales.  He had no reason to believe this candidate would be any different.  A storm is brewing outside and he’s concerned about getting out before all the roads get snowed in.  He turns around and bangs on the floor-board radiator in the hopes it will jump-start.  He rifles through the haphazard paperwork on his desk looking for this latest resume.  He can’t find it.  He runs his hand through his hair and straightens his tie just as a knock comes at his door.  His assistant opens it slowly, peeks in, smiles at Sales Manager and ushers in No. 4.

ASSISTANT:  Good Afternoon… Let me know if you need anything.  (She smiles, nods her head at No. 4 and walks out shutting the door behind her).

SALES MANAGER (Genially holding out his hand although it is apparent through his fidgeting and sighing that he is tired and can’t wait for this interview to be over.):   Hello.  I’m Hugh Jass, it’s a pleasure to meet you.

NO. 4 (reaching to shake hands):  Hello, Mr. Jass, also a pleasure.  I’m Phil McCracken.

(The two men stare at each other for a moment.  Without so much as a blink, they high-five and move directly into a complicated, syncopated hand-shake incorporating chest-bumps, clapping and an ass-slapping flourish at the end).

SALES MANAGER (pages his assistant, she comes into the office):  Mr. McCracken, please follow my assistant, Jenna Talia, to Human Resources.  You’re hired.

END SCENE

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I don’t know.  Call me crazy, but I have to believe that there really is a secret organization for the Phil’s and Hugh’s in the world.  Let’s call it, oh…A.I.M. (The “Alliance for Inconvenient Monikers”).    Haven’t we all met people who, upon being told their name, we think “Oh, DAMN!  Shit…I’m sorry, man”.  Haven’t we all met a Mike Hunt or a Ben Dover or a Sandy Beech or an Anita Bath?  Don’t these people DESERVE such an alliance…an unwritten and unspoken brotherhood complete with a secret handshake – that binds all of those poor sons-of-bitches together in unity, helping each other along through life?

I don’t know about you but when I was thinking of names for my three sons, I not only thought about how their first and last names would sound together and if it would even remotely sound ridiculous, but I also determined what their initials would spell out.  I really didn’t want them walking into a board-room some day with something like “ASS” or “DIC” or “TIT” monogrammed into their shirt cuffs.

As a parent the very first thing we do to either enable or hinder our child’s success upon their very birth is to give them…a name.

I think it’s entirely possible that George and Barbara might have really, REALLY liked the name “Harry”.  But I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here in saying that there very likely wouldn’t have been a Bush-43in the White House had they saddled him with it.  Can you imagine Jim Lehrer introducing Al Gore in the first debate, and then following that up with an introduction to “Harry Bush”?  I don’t think even the Supreme Court would’ve handed him the election on a silver platter with that business going on.

In politics and news reporting there are some really “interesting” names:

  • Reince Priebus – RNC Chair (Is he a car?)
  • John Boehner – Speaker of the House (pronounced BAY-ner.  Yeah, riigghhht).
  • Rick Santorum (To be fair, it only became “odd” after someone disliked him enough to give his last name a “new meaning”.  You can look it up on Wikipedia here.
  • Wolf Blitzer – Journalist
  • Stone Phillips – Journalist
  • Saxby Chambliss – U.S. Senator, Georgia (sounds like a dessert wine)

Now, in case you don’t believe me and think that this is a frivolous post…check these out:

Wow…just, Wow.

These examples are fairly extreme, of course.  I’m sure that most parents think of the life-long consequences of their choices in naming their children and try to ensure them the best possible start in life.  (Okay, maybe not Richard Swett’s…his parents CLEARLY hated him).

And let’s not forget the melting pot that is America and the varied ethnicities that comprise our society.  Ethnocentric names can be befuddling to many people; their pronunciations are difficult and foreign-y and invariably the unintended translation or connotations that come attached to many of them can have…unintended consequences.

For most of us, we go through our lives with the names we’re given.  Sure as an adult you have the option to legally change your name to something more palatable to yourself and society in general.  However, once you’ve gotten to a point in your life where you’re able to make that decision…isn’t it a point of honor to keep that name?  You’ve probably been teased, laughed at, bullied, shunned…and just maybe it’s helped you to become a better person.  Tougher.  Stronger.  Proud in the face of scrutiny.  All because of what someone else decided you’d be “called”.

How can you blame a person for something that was ostensibly given to them with love…without their consent…and bound to them through legality?  Ah…but kids can be cruel.

But adults can be more cruel.

Oh…and adults can be stupid.

I am continually dumbfounded when I listen to conservative talk-radio (yes, I listen to it – shudder – because I believe if I’m going to disagree with something I should have a pretty thorough basis for that disagreement – though I’d prefer an axe-sharpened stick-in-the-eye), or watch Fox News (see previous parenthetical explanation but add an additional shudder) and I’m still hearing “Barack HUSSEIN Obama”, or the elimination of his first name altogether and being referred to as “B. HUSSEIN Obama”.

Barack.  Hussein.  Obama.   Uh huh.

Why? Because in post-9/11 America, Barack Hussein Obama is the ethnic equivalent to Hugh Jass?

Yes, of course.  But also…and this is where my analysis breaks-down to the level of a stoned teenage boy… because they’re TOOLS.

Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, …just to name several, have referred to President Obama as “Barack HUSSEIN  Obama” or “B. Hussein Obama” and/or endorsed the views of others who say or draw attention to his middle name – in order to imply it’s hidden meaning;  i.e…..solidify it’s nefarious implications.  It made me sick the first time I heard it bandied-about during the 2008 election and continues to do so to this day.

As we all know, and certainly now that the long-form birth certificate has been disclosed, “Hussein” was the middle name given to the President as a teeny-weeny-tiny newborn baby, by his parents.  In the state of Hawaii.  Where he was born.

While we’re focusing predominantly on “Hussein” here, don’t even get me started on “Barack”.  The Far Right also goes-off on the fact that Obama used to refer to himself as “Barry” for a period in his younger days.  Are you kidding me?  Wouldn’t YOU?

YOUNG BARACK:  Hey, man, nice to meet you.  I’m Barack.

RANDOM AMERICAN PERSON:  Ba…what?

YOUNG BARACK:  Barack.  Pronounced Bu-Rock.

RANDOM AMERICAN PERSON:  How’s that spelled?  Like “barracks”?

YOUNG BARACK:  Ah, screw it.  Just call me Barry.

And need I really go into the “Obama/Osama” train-wreck?  I think we know where I’d go with that….

That Barack “Hussein” Obama has so joyfully and with gusto been inserted into the lexicon of Right-Wing pundits and politicians in such a casual way is a testament only to their disdain for the audience in which they cater to.  These pundits know – know –  that his middle name has not proven to be a declaration of Obama’s faith or proof of foreign loyalties; but they also know that their listening public wants to believe those things are true nonetheless.  In our post-9/11 world these talking-heads have used fear of all things Muslim as a rallying cry to attempt the ushering in of sanctioned racial-profiling…and loathing of all things Muslim as a justification for that fear.  Oh, they’d tell you differently.  “What?  What’s the problem?  His middle name IS Hussein.  It’s his name.  Why can’t we say it?!”

Yes, well…the Far-Right certainly can.  They can emphasize HUSSEIN; a name he was born with, a name he had no choice in choosing and could never erase from its original existence even if he wanted to.  They can certainly do that.  And they can certainly choose to believe that it’s relevant to their cause of de-legitimizing a President whom they already abhor for a thousand different perceived reasons from A (let’s start with Alinsky…) to Z (anti-Zionism)Yes they can.

But for most of us who watch Fox News only under duress (it’s the only T.V. in front of me at the gym) and/or to keep abreast of opposing viewpoints no matter how frequently repugnant…it’s like watching a sociological experiment gone horribly awry.  To me these leaders of Right-Wing thought, who use their very public pulpits in order to foment hatred and distrust amongst so many millions of people with the simple utterance of one middle-name, wellthey’re simply bottom-feeders dredging up the red-meat to shove into the mouths of their listeners. 

They were most likely the bullies on the playground who relentlessly tormented and teased Hugh Jass and Phil McCracken til they cried, as opposed to simply acknowledging their unfortunate cross to bear and moving past it.  Because highlighting what they know doesn’t really matter, while at the same time convincing other people that it DOES matter…creates fear.  Which creates power.  Saying “Hussein” even casually is all they have to do keep fear and suspicion ever-present in the minds of those who crave it.

The only thing that could possibly light a bigger, more superficial fire under the asses of the crazy Right-Wing in this country would be if “Barack Ramadan-A-Ding-Dong Obama” appeared on the long-form birth certificate.

There are many legitimate reasons to oppose this President if you are a Conservative.  Hell, there are legitimate reasons to oppose some of what this President does in the eyes of a Liberal.  So why continue to foist upon listeners and viewers such name-based fear-baiting and disdain for someone they are never going to like or vote for anyway??  Because they’re the playground bullies who grew up lucky enough to stand in front of a microphone?  Because creating unwarranted, superficial fear in others gives them power?  Because when they can make someone Arab-enough it makes them feel instantly superior?  Because they’re tools?

I’m pretty sure the answer is:  all of the above.

One thing is clear, in 2008 – despite the best efforts of these people – the country elected President Obama.

Now I’m not positive, but in one back-stage inauguration photo I’m pretty sure I can make-out Obama giving an ass-slapping-with-a-flourish to a guy in the shadows.

Too bad that guy remains nameless.

Bruce Willis…With a Complex.

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I am a Liberal.  I am not a pacifist.

I’ve always had a hard time explaining to people my views regarding guns.  I think most  Conservatives I know revel in trying to pin me as the stereotypical Democrat; weak, tree-hugging, cares more for animals and newts than people, won’t own a gun but wants my neighbor who does to come to my aid when I’m being raped or robbed.   While I’m generally very clear on my views and why I hold them, I’ve had a hard time putting into words what I feel on the subject of gun ownership.

Perhaps my inability to explain my views is because I’m often ridiculously verbose and passionate and get tangled up in my own commentary to the point which I end up saying something like this professorial little gem while debating at the family barbecue:  “I hate guns and war, ok!  But I know they’re often necessary and I would wish I had a gun if some asshat broke into my house but….argggghhhh….is that potato salad German or American???”  I’m a master of deflection when I can’t express myself.  See, there’s that ridiculously verbose thing.

Perhaps, though, my inability to explain my views is as simple as….I’m a hypocrite.

I suppose I’m writing about this because I read a story on Michael Dukakis the other day and was reminded of the question asked of him by Bernard Shaw during a debate with George Bush Sr.  Shaw asked him if he would support the death penalty for someone who had raped and murdered his wife.  Many credit his dispassionate response of essentially “nope” as the death-knell of his presidential ambitions.  Many decried the question as patently unfair to ask to begin with.  While possibly “unfair” in terms of throwing someone off-guard with such a personal, graphic, hypothetical question about heinous crimes committed against a loved one…I don’t think it was that unfair.  I think politicians tend to separate themselves and their beliefs from what their own realities are, i.e., you’re against same sex marriage until your daughter comes out as gay and in a loving/committed relationship and suddenly you realize, “Hey, ok…I guess it’s not that bad”.  I think the real courage displayed by politicians is when they can empathize with, and respond accordingly to,  the plight of human beings without first having to experience that same plight for themselves.

And I believe that real courage in every-day human beings not only reflects that same empathy, but the balls to admit that while you might not believe in something in “principle”, when it gets right down to it, you believe in it anyway.

And therein lies my internal conflict on the issue of guns.

I’m no pacifist.

But I don’t want to own a gun.  They scare me.  They cause permanent, horrible, debilitating damage to real flesh-and-blood human beings in a lightning-flash.  The thought of one in my house anywhere near my children makes me cringe.  The thought of millions of them floating around out there in the hands of – just about anyone who wants one – terrifies me.

But you wanna know what else terrifies me?  The thought of God-forbid someone breaking into my home, with a gun, and killing my family, my children, me.  If that ever happens and some deranged criminal is climbing the stairs toward my kids’ rooms…. I guarantee you the following will be my first thought:

Why don’t I own a fucking gun?  If I had a gun I would cock it, march up the stairs stealthily, sneak up behind the asshole who dared to harm those who I love, press the barrel of the gun again the base of his neck, march him out of view of my kids, ask him if he believes it was worth it……and then before waiting for his answer – calmly say “Yippie-Ki-Yay Mother Fucker” …and pull the trigger.

I’ve thought about this scenario more than once.  Every time I think about it it makes my heart race and my brow sweat because the only thing that makes me feel better is to…not think about it at all.  I am not courageous in this regard because I have a serious internal conflict.  I want nothing to do with guns.  I don’t think people should be able to own damn near any kind of gun they please, and especially not guns that come chock-full of as many clips and bullets as they can load into a picnic basket.  But the fact remains that when I want a gun, need a gun as is warranted in my most feared scenario, I want it to be there at my fingertips.  And I would use it.

I struggle mightily with this irony.  I don’t blame Michael Dukakis for answering the way he did.   The choices were to either completely disassociate yourself from the raw, primal human emotion of wanting to slaughter those who would harm anyone you love, and come off sounding like a “Republican” – or – take your emotions completely out of it and answering in a distinctly non-empathetic manner so that you can continue to state what you believe in.   In theory.  In principle.  A “Democrat”…with no guts.  It was a lose/lose outcome no matter which way he sliced it.

For now, all I can do is hope and pray to any and all higher powers that I will never be confronted with the scenario in which I will forever regret not having a gun.  For now, all I can do is continue to trust that I will never need one in order to save my family or myself.  For now, I have to be content that what I believe in principle does not necessarily mesh with the reality and possibilities we live with every day in this messed-up world.  For now, all I can do is admit to myself that I have internal conflict over this issue, which is a nice way of saying “I’m a Hypocrite” publicly with what I profess to believe – and what I feel in my gut.

Yippie-Ki-Yay…ahhhh.  Just forget it.  I don’t have the balls to say it out loud.

What the…?!?!

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So I get one of those e-mails sent to me by a very conservative relative, someone I really love and respect.  But you know the e-mail I’m talking about…”I Vote Democrat Because”…and then an onslaught of ridiculously implausible and stereotypical declarations follow, all designed to really get-my-goat.  Goat gotten.  Feta being churned as we speak.

Yeah, one of those.  I’ve blown those damn things off so many times that I’ve created my own weather pattern.  Not today.  Not the day after the revelation of  THE LONG FORM BIRTH CERTIFICATE.  No.  Couldn’t blow.  I’m a proud Lib. I retorted with my own not-so-implausible-not-so-stereotypical declarations of my own.  See us Libs, well, I tend to think our beliefs – flawed as they may be – come from a little bit of a “better place”.  Possibly from that place of “moral superiority” that our detractors are always talking about.  My point is, I’m not above taking it as long as I can dish it out.

I wrote this on the fly today and e-mailed it out.  I can’t account for 100% accuracy in my assertions.  Again, you know us Libs…we’re so, so…emotional.

TOP 12 REASONS…WHY I VOTE REPUBLICAN:

1. I voted Republican because I drink the kool-aid and believe that the oil companies raking in billions in profits in the worst economy since the Great Depression is a coincidence and has nothing to do with my party’s allegiance to big oil’s lobby.

2. I voted Republican because I believe that in an enlightened democracy, the greatest the Earth has ever known, I shouldn’t have to give one red-cent to my government to help those in need or in desperate situations (job loss, too old to work and garner insurance through an employer that won’t hire them, etc) – just so long as “I’ve got mine”, and because I’m too smart and invincible to think I’ll every need the help of that government. But if I do need that help or safety net, it better f*&%ing-a well be there.

3. I voted Republican because Freedom of Speech is fine, as long as I can shout “Socialist/Marxist/Communist” and “You’re not an American!” at the top of my lungs toward anyone who doesn’t believe what I believe, without a shred of evidence to support those claims other than they don’t wear a flag pin or want ALL Americans to have a shot at basic healthcare and not have to rely on a private company hiring them in order for them to afford it…you know, stuff like that.

4. I voted Republican because semi-automatic and automatic weapons with the capacity to hold 20, 30+ round clips was EXACTLY what the Framers of the Constitution meant when they spoke of the right to bear arms, and any person who attempts to restrict my right to go anywhere I damn well please with a portable arsenal, is not only Anti-American, he’s an “appeaser”, a “coward” or a “hippie Liberal”. As a Republican, I have a divine knowledge of what the Founders meant by everything they wrote.

5. I voted Republican because I have a unique ability to deny what I can see before my eyes – that glaciers and polar icecaps melting couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the toxic spew we’ve been throwing into our air, Earth and water for generations. And as a Republican I have a unique ability to not-care about any visible evidence that our planet just might be in trouble from what humans are doing to it. AND, as a Republican, because the polar ice-caps melting doesn’t affect me directly, any even microscopic attempt to regulate pollution will only be seen by me as an attempt to harm the corporations who produce the waste – and that means that you are at the very least anti-Capatalist, and definitely a Socialist.

6. I voted Republican because I have the unique ability to refuse to accept or understand that a human embryo/fetus is encapsulated inside of a… woman… who by law has a CHOICE, not a mandate, to decide what is best for her own physicality or that of her embryo/fetus. Because I am a Republican and do not believe in “big government”…I know that what is RIGHT (and naturally “small government”) is to pass a law forcing my own religious and social beliefs on that woman and to FORCE her to give birth to a child against her will – regardless of how she became pregnant, whether or not she can care for a child, regardless of the health of her or that child in the womb or once it will be born…AND…once it’s born I know, as a Republican, that it’s not even a blip of a thought in my head as to the kind of life that child/mother will live. And I don’t care, because in this world you just pull up your bootstraps, never get sick because you can’t afford to, get a great college education and get a high-paying job. Remember, I’m a Republican….I don’t believe in “big government”.

7. I voted Republican because I think anyone who is foreign is scary and I know that they are after what is “mine”. I only see things as black & white, and forget that by undeniable, stupid luck I was born on American soil and am therefore inherently just kind of, better, than people who weren’t. I have no real capacity to see illegal immigration, or even legal immigration, on a multitude of levels aside from just the “icky foreigner” one. I don’t have the capacity to see the human side of it. Well, that’s not true, I like Carlos a lot. He’s the illegal immigrant who cuts my lawn and who I pay in cash under the table, and Thank God, because well, that job is really beneath an American anyway.

8. I voted Republican because I believe the dogma that my party spews at me in that businesses should be treated as “people”… only really, really “special people”. So special, in fact, that they shouldn’t have to adhere to any sort of guidelines or restrictions or taxes of any kind that are in proportion to the profits they make. As a Republican I believe that every very wealthy business or person inherently pays their fair-share for the upkeep of our Republic and it’s populace simply by hiring people or pumping money into the economy…and so be it if the people they hire or the money they make and then pump out is into a foreign country. As a Republican I believe that the tax loopholes our lobbyists have created for the wealthy are uniquely American, and so is our right to make sure that we pay as little as possible to non-Americans for the work they hire them to do. I like “trickle-down economics” because trickle sounds like “tickle”, and who doesn’t like a good laugh?

9. I voted Republican because I believe that Conservative “activist” judges are perfectly within their rights to decide American Presidential elections, declare that corporations have the same rights as individual people, and hopefully overturn a law that currently guarantees choice for a pregnant woman and votes to make that same pregnant woman a criminal if she doesn’t forcibly give birth. Remember….small, non-intrusive government.

10. I voted Republican because I absolutely refuse to accept that oil is a finite, destructive resource and think that it’s better to drill, baby, drill as opposed to sinking that money into reliable, clean renewable energy. Because I’m Republican I look the other way when our party’s leaders “go to bed” with the “people who hate us” when it comes to oil. And I look the other way and scoff, naturally, when the hippie Democrats complain that drilling will completely wipe out entire species of living, breathing things on this planet, and ruin what little pristine land remains in our world…forever. Why drive a Prius when you can drive a Hummer? I’m sure that’s what the Founders would say.

11. I voted Republican because the words “hope and change” upset me a great deal. Living in America, what could we possibly hope for, or change, that would be any better than what we’ve already got? Why strive for anything better when right now, I’ve got what “I” need? It’s not about the Democrats’ moral-imperative to help others who have a very difficult time helping themselves, it’s about “hoping” those sorry people will just go away and “changing” nothing so long as I’m ok.

12. I voted Republican because I really actually LIKE my head up my ass. The view from in here really stinks, but it’s my stink…MINE….so I don’t mind it so much.  And there’s a flag-pin in here, which is nice.

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