Tastes Like Chicken

Contrast and comparison.  We describe, define, and divide the world around us using both. Boys are tougher than girls. Girls are more emotional.  Democrats care more about people than Republicans.  Republicans are more responsible and realistic than Democrats. My dogma attributed to God is better than yours. This culture is better or worse than that culture because of this attribute. People who drive Priuses are better than people who drive Humvees. People who only ride bicycles are even better.  Vegetarians and Vegans are ethically superior. Omnivores are more true to their biological nature. My team is better than your team. Contrast is scary.  Contrast is attractive.  Brown men and women are exotic and sexy.  Don’t you love that accent?  What interesting and beautiful clothing!

We identify ourselves in contrast to other people and then cluster together with those we perceive to be like us, building walls, gates, rules, and laws to keep the contrast away. You must have a keycode to enter this neighborhood, you must hide your car in the garage.  You may only paint your house in this limited palette in order to avoid contrast. We go to the restaurants, bars, gyms, and supermarkets where the other customers contrast least with our norm. Then, once a year, some of us are so starved for contrast that we travel halfway around the world to find it.  We dive in to another culture, marvel at the difference, document our immersion with selfies, and then, because deep down we are terrified, we go to McDonalds with the other people like us to escape the contrast.

You may think I am denigrating the people I describe above because they are different from me.  You would be correct, to a point.  I despise HOAs, I seek out contrast and exotica.  I never go to McDonalds even in this country, and certainly not in one with far superior cuisine (any country in the world). But I am guilty of avoiding contrast as well.  When I travel, I by and large avoid Americans and the places they most frequent.  I don’t socialize at home with people who are frightened of contrast.  I avoid Republicans, especially now, and I consider anyone who supports Trump for any reason to be morally inferior, or at least delusional.

Sometimes I can’t avoid these people, or I accidentally encounter them. I might be in a conversation with someone in a coffee shop about the latest movie or TV show, or I might ask to pet their dog, because I can’t resist a canine. I might be sharing stories of grandchildren with another grandparent. In those moments we are all the same tribe.  Then something will happen, a comment, maybe, that outs them as different.  I spent a year being friends with a guy I met here where I am writing right now.  He was fascinating, friendly, smart, and seemed like a decent sort. He had been in the tech industry as had I, had made some money, and decided to leave it all behind for a nomadic life on his bicycle.  He had a cool website about his journeys, and lots of stories. Then this past year, he passed through town again.  About a month later, the subject of Central American refugees came up.  He made some incredibly insensitive and downright racist statements. When I called him on it, he made jokes.  Our friendship ended on the spot.

I have friends who maintain relationships with Trump supporters because they are family members, or because they have other things in common that override the racism somehow.  I can’t do it. They tell me that, deep down, we are all the same, and that such reprehensible beliefs, words, and actions are a result of life experience and trauma. Everything tastes like chicken, in other words.  The thing is, everything does not taste like chicken.  In fact, I have never had anything except chicken which tastes like chicken.

I took the photo above across the street from a house I’m working on.  I boosted the contrast all the way up on my phone to get the image you see.  This is what we do when we generalize about a group.  There are still nuanced differences in evidence, whether it be the little bit of color in the prickly pear, or the higher resolution of the shadows on the sidewalk. My grandchildren’s other grandparents voted for Trump.  They are some of the sweetest, kindest people I know.

Nothing but chicken tastes like chicken, but chicken can have a lot of different characteristics and flavors.

Oh, What A Tangled Web

…we weave, when we practice to deceive. – Shakespeare.

Reporting on this year’s Democratic primary has been frustrating to me.  First, when Kamala Harris was in third place early on, all reporting was about Biden, Warren, and Sanders, as it still is.  Then there is the Republican talking point about taxes going up under Medicare for all that gets turned into a question by every reporter.  The amount people will pay goes down.  Taxes aren’t everything. Right now, you pay taxes plus insurance.  With Medicare for all, you just pay taxes, and the amount is less.  Thirdly, the whole narrative about Biden being the favorite.  That is complete nonsense.  He dominates the middle of the road status quo wing of the party, but if either Warren or Sanders dropped out, he would be down by 10 points.

I supported Kamala Harris early on, and I still like her best, but everyone on the stage Thursday except Wang would make a good president.  Several of them would make great presidents.

All that said, I felt Warren was strongest in this debate.  She was crystal clear in her answers, even to leading questions. I hope Bernie can set aside his ego and help her become president.

Lastly, we MUST take back the Senate.  If we don’t, any Democrat president will be ineffectual and a second Trump term will destroy the integrity of our judicial system.

Photo taken at Fort Popham, Maine last week.

And So It Begins

I remember my grandparents always talking about people who had died.  Now my parents do.  The longer you live, the more people around you die.  I had two friends die last week.  I sometimes joke that I try to make younger friends so that I will outlive them.  Well, James was 6 years younger than I am. I took this photo last year right after he had open heart surgery.  It wasn’t his heart that killed him though, or maybe it was.  He dove in to the Salt River to rescue a dog and drowned in the process.  I lost touch with James after I left New Jersey in 1983.  When he showed up here with a complicated and confusing tale of love, betrayal, and legal issues a couple years ago, I didn’t know what to make of it.  To me, he was still that sweet teenager who never shaved and thus had a downy soft beard that girls loved. He was the definition of “mellow”.  I couldn’t reconcile his present with my memories of his past, so we didn’t connect very effectively here.  I went to see him immediately after his surgery, took this photo, and then never saw him again. He should have had 30 more years, at least.