The State of the State of the Union

So what’s the state of the union? Confused. You’ve got compassion and tax breaks on one hand, phony environmentalism and war mongering on the other. Looks like a mixed bag. I’m not big on politics. I don’t really like the whole mess. But I do like to stay up on things. I just don’t get why everything has to be so muddled.

Apparently giving the enormously wealthy tax breaks creates jobs and stimulates me to spend more money. I’m not quite sure how that works.

Apparently drilling for oil in a nature preserve is how you reduce your reliance on foreign oil. Funny he didn’t mention the details of that plan. Though the research money for hydrogen powered cars is a good step. It’d be nice to see the government help that technology get to consumers faster, though from what you hear from car companies the technology is already there.

And health care for all by some restructuring of Medicaid and stopping frivolous law suits. Granted I’m no health care professional, but I don’t see how that provides patient-selected health care for all.

AIDS in Africa. Now that was encouraging. It sounds Bush intends for America to lead the way and stop a continental holocaust. Rock the house.

And then we come to Iraq. Now I’m not big on war, but I bristle every time this issue comes up. I sympathize with the protesters, but I also see the danger of a rogue nation. It just seems like we’re treading on thin ice when we become the world’s cowboy, even if we are pursuing peace and justice. Unfortunately, the entire world isn’t looking for American peace and justice. Pissed off people fought back on Sept. 11th, and we’re going to create a lot more of those foes by storming into Iraq and kicking the crap out of a wounded animal. It seems like we should evaluate some of policies and make sure we’re a little more protected and understood in the eyes of potential terrorists. Don’t forget that we started Saddam Hussien on his little chemical weapons collection during the Iran/Iraq war in the ’80s. Just because we’re the biggest country in the world doesn’t mean we can do whatever we want.

That’s what I find so difficult. It’s probably necessary to go to war with Iraq eventually. I just wish we had all the right motives and the right justifications in doing so.

In the end, I find politics pretty lame. Right now just about every state is making essential cuts just to survive the fiscal year. Yet we don’t see anything addressing this budget catastrophe. I just get fed up sometimes.

Watching George W. Bush, I’m inspired by the display of world leadership this backwater governor from Texas has been able to muster. The guy has really done an impressive job. But then I look at some specifics and I’m not so sure. He’s trying to curtail abortion. That’s good. He’s killing the environment. That’s bad. He cares about AIDS in Africa. That’s good. He wants to give tax relief to billionaires. That’s bad. In the end, where do we stand? Do you go with the guy who agrees with you on as many issues as possible? Or do you go with the guy who isn’t going to look like a pansy on the world stage? And sometimes, you just can’t know.

Another thing that makes me a little uncomfortable, is the statement that freedom is a gift from God to humanity. Bush was referring to democratic freedom, but I can’t figure out where he gets that idea. American Christians love to hail democracy and freedom as God-given rights, but I just don’t see that in the Bible. God told us to pray for our leaders, to seek out peace, justice, and mercy, and to spread the kingdom of God throughout the world. Maybe that’s accomplished through democracy, but if that’s the case I don’t think democracy is the value you want to herald. I think it’s love, peace, mercy.

Random thoughts from a random American on the state of the State of the Union.

Will there come a day when I like myself again?

You want to change the world but the world won’t change for you.

I wake up in the morning and wonder where I am. Come to my senses try to put my best face on. It’s not so easy before the sun rises. I’ve got to make an impression, got to be the one all the boys want. That’s what I’m talking about. You say it’s not true, but you don’t know the way they look at you. That look can mean so much, it can be everything.

You find the clothes that look best today. Whatever happened to my favorite pair of jeans, that comfy sweater that reminds you of rainy Saturdays and Monopoly? That doesn’t cut it any more. I dress with my back to the mirror, not wanting to know the latest. Maybe tonight I’ll be in better shape to face the music. I know what the magazines say, but my body doesn’t want to cooperate on Monday mornings. You wouldn’t cooperate either if you had to get up this early, with this little sleep, with this much to do.

By the time I walk out the door, I wonder if I’m really myself. I don’t listen to my mother’s makeup advice anymore. Nobody does. Someone from New York whom I’ve never met tells me how’s it done. That’s who everyone at school listens to, and I do the same. Once upon a time it was normal to be yourself. But no one’s interested in this self anymore. So I do what I can, I try my best to make myself presentable, acceptable, likable, lovable.

I never quite know if it works, if I can manage to pull the wool over their eyes, over my own eyes. Sometimes I just pretend it works, and ignore the fact that my pants are too loose or too baggy, that my shirt is too tight or not tight enough, showing too much cleavage or not enough, showing enough of my stomach or not enough. Sometimes I pretend my thighs are slim and my stomach is taunt and my breasts are just right. Sometimes I don’t give a shit.

Sometimes as I walk to the bus stop I wonder if I’ll ever look in the mirror and see myself again. I wonder if on the other side of the adolescent jungle is something worthwhile. I wonder if adults go through the same self-flagellation, or if we grow past this pathetic phase of gratifying total strangers and jilted popularity mongers.

Will there come a day when I like myself again?

I never want to be that cool.

Orange is the new red. Punk is the new preppy. Thrift shop is the new casual. Old school is the new school. Trends and the latest in are so out with me. I get a kick walking around the mall and seeing the styles stores are trying to peddle as the latest and greatest. Everything is so phony. They’re manufacturing cool and selling it at discount prices.

My favorite is the new chic punk. The tough looking clothes that once defined rebellion are now sold in soft girly yellows and pinks, toned down and trimmed to be a hackneyed copycat lacking the soul of the original. But it’s okay, cuz you’d look so cute in that.

A close second is the fabricated retro. It used to be cool to shop the thrift stores, buying actual clothes from the seventies. But who needs frayed tees that smell like your grandma when you can have the same thing with artificial logos and a brand name? It incorporates all the style of Salvation Army with none of the price.

And finally, the only thing falling faster than the stock market is the waistline of women’s jeans (“Here Come the Buns”). The low-rider is suddenly back, but it wasn’t enough, we had to have hip-huggers again and ultra-low rise and really really low rise, and this-is-so-freaking-low-you-can’t-really-call-them-pants-anymore-low riders. And low-rider jeans coupled with the thong spells trouble for the DEA: plumbers aren’t the only ones dispensing a little crack.

It’s getting to the point where prissy little pre-teens need to coordinate before going to the mall. Are we going fake sweat suit casual or preppy punk? Because you’d hate to mix genres while hanging with your friends. But you don’t want to overdo it. I saw one dynamic duo at the mall that were a little too coordinated. They were going for the chunky tennis shoes, split-side bell-bottoms, and retro rugby shirts. They looked like a pair of walking mannequins.

I never want to be that cool.

From buying a house to saving the world.

You know you’re getting old when you think it’s fun to sit around and shop for houses, trying to figure out the best combination of bedrooms, bathrooms and great rooms. This is not something my hip, younger self would have enjoyed.

So my wife and I are house shopping. This probably has to be one of the most stressful decisions of my life. Planning a wedding? Piece of cake. As long as you picked the right girl you really couldn’t screw too much up. The wedding is only one day–it’s the marriage you have to sweat about. But buying a house isn’t so simple. It’s not one day. You have to live in the freaking house. And it’s not just the house I think is great, I have to find a house someone else thinks is great — namely my wife. And to top it all off, we’re trying to house hunt across country. Joyous.

The truly fun part is imaging the perfect house (how old did that statement sound?). I’m talking built in bookshelves and secret passageways. OK, I’m joking. But I’m serious about the secret passageways. The housing industry is such an old place. The most common (and usually cheapest) house you can find is the cookie cutter development. Every house on the block looks the same, and they actually are the same. The floor plans are identical, maybe reversed for a little variety. Every tree around is clear cut, so you’re left with this manicured, fluorescent green lawn with no shade, interrupted with spurts of concrete. Not exactly what I call home. You’d think developers would realize the value of a tree. It takes 20 years for a sapling to reach an even respectable size, even longer if you want a reasonable amount of shade. Yet they mow ’em all down like they’re nothing. It’s odd how little we value nature.

If I had my way with a house, I’d like to make it environmentally friendly. As people, we’ve come a long way from living on the land. Now we don’t even know how. It’d be nice if our homes were more nature-conscious, even in minor ways.

My electric bill came the other day, and a pamphlet about solar power was included. If you install a solar panel on your roof you can hook it up to the electric grid and get money back. Now why isn’t that common place? The sun’s going to beat down on your roof all day anyway, why not harness a bit of that power? It’s not a big money maker (if it makes any at all), but it’s sustainable. You’re not clouding the air or polluting the water. You’re just soaking up the rays (and this method doesn’t cause cancer).

I’d also love to see a house that uses water more efficiently. How about a gray water system? Rather than flushing any bit of slightly dirty water down the drain, you store that reasonably dirty water (gray water), and use it for things that don’t require perfectly filtered water. So you wash the dishes and then you water the plants with it. The water from your shower can water the lawn. And if that’s too complicated, how about collecting the rain water that streams through your gutters and storing it to water your lawn? Why do we bother wasting so much water to keep the grass green? Seems like there’s easier, cheaper ways to have a green lawn.

And speaking of a lawn, why is the manicured Kentucky blue grass lawn the ideal? Why do we want a mowed down prairie? What happened to nature? The lawn has to be the least healthy, least stable, most susceptible to disease and most expensive natural system to want to put around your house. Having some open space to run around in is great, but can’t we have a little diversity? Why are dandelions and clover the enemy? I like dandelions. Forgive me for not endorsing the manly vision of the Saturday lawn warrior, but I’ve got better things to do than spend my Saturday killing weeds and trimming plants. Let the grass grow, I’ve got things to do. Having some typical lawn is great, but let’s be realistic. Do you really need to trim back the weeds in the farthest corner of your yard? Let it go. Throw down some wild flower seeds and bring back some native grasses and plants. The diversity will require less maintenance, less money, less time.

Of course you can’t exactly find a home with any of these simple modifications. Despite the widespread acceptance of environmentalism, no one is willing to back it up with anything more than recycling their pop cans on the corner once a week. Never mind that being environmentally conscious isn’t just about saving the planet. It’s about being simpler. It’s about saving time and money by letting nature do it’s thing.

From buying a house to saving the world. Sometimes I don’t know how I do it.


Feeling neglected? Yeah, aren’t we all.

I think it’s all about attitude. I can practically talk myself into something I don’t really like if I have the right attitude. I suppose that’s the trouble though, finding the right attitude.

I don’t understand these people who always see the bright side. I guess I’m not there yet. I’d like to be, but it’s hard to see the sun on a dreary winter morning when your muscles ache and your throat is dry. It’s so much easier to complain. Especially when you’ve been given a raw deal. But someone else’s injustice is no excuse for my own crabbiness.

Entropy is easy. Construction? Now that’s another story.

Living is Precarious Business

“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:13-14, NIV).

You know what’s scary? Trying to buy a house. You have to scrape together ridiculous amounts of money for stuff you never knew you needed. You have to plan farther ahead than you’ve ever wanted to plan. It’s really kind of frightening. And while you’re doing all this ultra-long range planning (I’m talking a year or two, I’m only 23 after all), just about anything could happen tomorrow to screw it all up. You could lose your job. Your wife could lose her job. Interest rates could go through the roof. My new car could explode. My apartment could burn down. I could break my wrist and be unable to type.

I suppose living is a precarious business.

You know what else is scary? Fifty degree weather in January in Minnesota.