When I was a child, there was a clear distinction between respectable citizens and degenerates. I was constantly made aware of this distinction by my family. I guess that's one of the main purposes of parents; to insure you know the difference, and to make sure you don't fall into becoming one of those loathsome scoundrels who loves neither his family, nor God nor his country.
My parents, my step-father in particular, where keen to point out that a man who had long hair, for instance, was clearly a homosexual. Even at a very young age I was at a loss because I thought that being a homosexual meant that you had sex with other men. They also pointed out to me in extreme earnest, that growing your hair would not only make you a homosexual but also lead to smoking marijuana which would in turn lead to becoming hopelessly addicted to heroine which would cause you to have sex with men for money in order to be able to pay for the drugs which would reenforce the fact that you were, as they originally pointed out, indeed a homosexual.
This was all very hard for a six-year-old to process.
Nonetheless, I got the picture, or so I thought. At that time, growing up a Cuban immigrant in Newark, New Jersey, I didn't know any men with long hair. There was only one man who fit the bill and he was in a painting my grandmother had in her home. His name was Jesus Christ. Well, you can just imagine what happened when I innocently went to my parents and asked them if Jesus was a drug-addicted homosexual.
Cubans, especially back then, were not known to spare the rod, or this case, the belt. That day was certainly no exception. As I ran screaming to my room, my little, red, ass cheeks aflame, I remember crying through my tears, "But he has long hair!" There's just so much that makes no sense when you're six.
It made no more sense to me at seventeen, when I had made the bold choice to grow my hair hence becoming a degenerate and a homosexual in the eyes of my family. I think I was still stuck on the fact that these people worshipped the image of a man who in appearance was the very thing they told their children not to be. I may have even used the "Jesus had long hair" argument again at that point, but at seventeen I was smart enough to know when to run. And that's what I did. And I never looked back.
I've been a degenerate ever since. In other words, I dress the way I please, I cut my hair or don't as I please. I'm a free thinker and I say what's on my mind. I believe in freedom and equality for all. I stand for a woman's right to choose, I stand for couples of any and all persuasions to have the right to live, to love and to marry. I believe, like the founders of this country, in the separation of church and state. I believe in the inalienable right of religious freedom to openly worship one God, many gods or none at all. And most importantly, I believe in democracy and freedom of speech and in the pursuit of happiness. I believe that if you're not hurting anyone in what you're doing, you should be free to do it. In other words, I'm a degenerate.
I'm over forty now and I still have trouble understanding the distinction between what makes a person an upstanding, respectable member of society and a degenerate. I've met suit-wearing accountants who molest children and I've met sado-masochists who are the kindest folks you could ever hope to meet (or beat). Frankly, some things just still don't add up. It bogs me down sometimes, it always has. Somedays, I try not to think too much about it.
It rained heavily today. I had one of those days where you just can't get your priorities straight. I have a long "to do" list but I keep forgetting to look at it. I guess I should add "Read your to-do list" to the top of it. Today, I actually made it a point to read it and see if there were things I could get done and scratch off of the list.
This is what the list looked like:
June 30th, 2009:
Send Chi-chian books to Framelight pictures. 6 sets if possible
Book Canandian dates!
Book Canandian flights
Visit Canadian embassy for work permit.
Record Radiohead cover
Send Transrexia Mini-DV to Carnival of Darkness
Finish Deady Belt Design
Pay electric bill
Pay phone bill
Finish Deady custom toy for Mezco
Sign release form for Mezco
Make Yoka Deady toy design
Make DEADY Dunny toy design
Call Outland about show
Make Deady/Stitch production piece layout for Mindstyle
Work on Mallow design
cut wood for air conditioner...
That's just the top seventeen items. The list is a couple hundred items long. I looked at it good and hard and decided to "cut wood for air conditioner". My fiance bought an air conditioner and asked if I'd install it. I did that last night but felt it needed a wooden bar across the window to secure it and keep it from falling out the window and crushing some respectable person. It seemed like the task that involved the least amount of effort so I went with that. That's the kind of day I was having. All I needed to do was to track down my electric saw. If it wasn't in our apartment, then it might be at The School of Visual Arts and if it wasn't there, it might be at my place downtown.
Several hours later, I had torn apart all three places and still hadn't found my saw. I finally stubbled upon a handsaw in my apartment downtown and settled for that. I went outside. It was a veritable deluge. The day was gone, the weather was miserable and my mind was just as cloudy. Sometimes, on days like this, you just have to let yourself give up. You just have to cut your losses. And that's what I did.
I went to a cafe on first avenue and tenth street for a latte and a tartine; that's a grilled baguette with butter and jam for those of you not named after a dead, French philosopher. I sat down and while I waited for my meal, I started to draw my little, evil teddy bear, Deady on some scrap paper. There was a couple sitting to my left. They were speaking loudly and excitedly. The man, I divined, was an author of note. He was white-haired and retired. The woman across from him was probably in her thirties or forties. However, obviously a devotee of his writing, she behaved no differently than a teenage fan girl, bubbly and giddy, laughing at anything he said that was mildly amusing. She clearly wished to impress him. She rattled off a list of her accolades including a fancy fellowship she had won, what ivy league school she had attended and dropped the names of successful people they were mutually acquainted with and she prodded him to speak at her book club. And she mentioned several times that she was newly divorced. He in turn seemed pleased to be getting such enthusiastic attention from a younger woman. And who could blame him. They were both upstanding, respectable citizens as far as I could tell.
The subject of the conversation turned to an acquaintance of theirs who was an accomplished writer for the New York Times. "Oh, he's such a fascist!" said the woman. "We were talking the other day and he was siding with George Bush, saying that he agreed with the Patriot Act."
"Yes, I know exactly what you mean," said the man. "The Times has such a reputation for being left-leaning that I think he uses that as a shield. He figures that as long as he works there, his intentions won't be in question and he's free to spew this fascist rhetoric. Just the other day I was saying to him that under President Bush, we've all had our civil liberties slowly eroded away. After nine-eleven, everything changed. Nine-eleven was our Riechstag, you know. After the Reichstag building was burned down in Berlin in 1933, Hitler was able to suspend the civil liberties of the Germany people under the guise that it would help them hunt down enemies of the state. Bush used nine-eleven for the same purpose. 'What do you call a country that has no habeas corpus?' I asked him. ' where you can arrest a person without probable cause or due process, where you can wire-tap phones without a warrant? I call it a fascist state!' That's what I said to him."
It brought to mind a quote by one of my favorite long-haired degenerates, Benjamin Franklin, "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safetly."
These two people were both in the arts and had a passion for freedom. "These are my kind of people", I thought. But then the conversation took a strange turn. The woman had been called for jury duty and they began to joyfully exchange stories about how they've weaseled out of doing jury duty in the past.
"Oh, I just get my psychiatrist to write me a note," said the man, " I mean, who wants an unstable person in the jury pool, am I right?" and they laughed.
I honestly wanted to turn to them and yell, "How can you condemn fascism and in the same breath express how unwilling you are to do the things that keep this country a democracy?" (But I couldn't do that because eaves dropping is rude. So instead I would do the polite thing. I would run home later and blog about it behind their backs.)
Then it got worse. Apparently her efforts to get out of it failed and she had apparently done a month of grand juror duty. She was explaining to him what it was, and she clearly didn't know! She had just spent a whole month there, no doubt grumbling the entire time, and all along she thought she was sitting on trials deliberating on the innocence or guilt of suspects. That's not what the grand jury does. It only deliberates on whether or not there is enough evidence for a case to go to trail. I should know. I served. And it was eye-opening.
Sadly, what I learned was that a lot of "respecatable" citizens love to waive a flag. They love to go on and on about freedom and democracy and the American way, but the second you ask someone to exercise their right to be part of the democratic system, the second you ask someone to do their duty to uphold the values this country was built on, the complaining begins and the excuses start up. And it's not a class thing, it's across the board. When I was called for grand jury duty, which lasted a month, I sat between a very large, black woman who was making minimum wage working at McDonald's and a young, white lady who was in grad school. And I swear to God it was like a contest to see who had better things to do than be in the jury box. Everyday for a month I got to hear that large, black lady say things like, "Ah don needa be heah! I gots lottsa things tadoo!" and the uptight, white girl on the other side of me bitching into her cellphone such pearls as "I'm like, totally missing my classes right now. Like... totally!" These were just two of the twenty or so people in there and believe me when I say that the rest were not much better. Everyone loves democracy but no one actually wants to be part of it. Believe me, I understand what an inconvenience it is to be away from work for a whole month. I'm self employed. If I don't work, no one is going to pay my rent for me. But if no one in their right mind wants to do jury duty, then think about who is going to be in that box making the decisions that keep this country free. It's a scary thought.
Eventually, there won't be a grand jury. Eventually cases will simply go to trial whether there is enough evidence or not. And when it goes to trial there won't be a jury there to deliberate. Eventually, the government will let the people have their way. It will stop asking them to participate. And the people will be thrilled. They can go to their jobs at McDonald's or go to their classes at Columbia and they will be ecstatic to never be bothered again by jury duty. And when that day comes, at the risk of revealing myself for the Star Wars fan that I am, Padme Amidala will be there in the wings. And she will say, "So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause."
Respectable people never cease to befuddle and confuse me. Here's a little experiment you can do on your own to get a taste of just how weird and contradictory "normal" people are. Strike up a conversation with someone you think of as an upstanding, law abiding citizen, exactly the kind of person you could imagine lambasting a junkie or recreational drug user. Rub your jaw and say, "sorry, I just got my wisdom teeth taken out." I can almost guarantee you that nine out of ten respectable citizens will say something like, "did they give you the good drugs?" It is absolutely mind blowing! I found this out when I had mine taken out. I swear I had everyone from school teachers to parents to police officers say this to me. What gives? If you smoke one joint, you are fit for prison but if you are completely off your tits on painkillers it's okey dokey? I know people who are on a six-percacets-a-day regimen who don't see a damn thing wrong with it. Why? Because they are prescribed by a physician. And what's a physician? That's right! A respectable, upstanding citizen! Ahhhhhhhhhhh!
What the hell? Flag waving patriots trying to dodge jury duty, teetotalers jonesing for a visit to the dentist? It's all so confusing!
I really don't know what to make of it all, but I'm working on it. I know that someday soon I will have a way to explain why it is that some respectable people are such degenerates and why some degenerates are some of the most lovely and respectful people I've ever met.
Matt Johnson of the band The The says something in his song "Armageddon Days Are Here Again" that I think we all know is true of a certain long-haired gentleman. And that is, "if the real Jesus Christ were to stand up today, he'd be gunned down cold by the C.I.A." Sad, but true.
Since so many "respectable people" live their lives (or at least believe they live their lives) by the words of Jesus Christ, I will end with these wise words of His,
"The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart."
And I guess therein lies the simplicity of it, really. Actions speak louder than words. The rest, is all a facade and it don't make a damn bit of difference what your hair looks like.