One

By Rich Ferguson

Poem

Be one with the world. One with yourself. One with the tranquility gallery behind your eyes, its humble paintings of peace & prosperity. One with how that gallery is so often under reconstruction, deconstruction. One with how everything is so impermanent, so fleeting. How your every thought breeds Frankensteins & angels. Be one with all your Frankensteins & angels.

Hey Mom!

Paul.

Paul, your son.

I know, bad connection sometimes on the Bluetooth.

It’s a phone thing.

How are you?

I said, how are you. You good?

Good.

Man oh man oh man oh man. It’s what, FOUR months until the first primary and the Republican field has been bludgeoning itself like a bunch of  tweens at a razor party listening to My Chemical Emo-mance.

When we last met I thought it was the clash of the titans, more specifically, the clash of the V05 hair Product between Mitt Robotney and Rick Perry. But this was not to be. Rick Perry falls apart in debate!  His iron-clad hair shield has been tainted by the Massachusetts I mean Michigan I mean where does Mitt Romney live now anyway?

*answer: he lives in any one of the following states:  California, New Hampshire, Massachusetts
But he is another wealthy regular man-robot hybrid just like you and me.

I was disappointed by Perry’s recent performance. Sure the guy is dumber than a can of paint but he’s a canny politician with a long winning streak, and he was trounced by a guy who makes the GPS voice in your car sound authentic. And Mitt Romney, the most pretend of all pretend Republicans, attacked him from the right on immigration.

We’ve only lost one candidate so far, rendering the debates crowded and pointless. Nine people yapping on stage isn’t a debate. It’s a Facebook wall. And nine people times fifty-eleven debates is not doing anyone any good.

If Sarah Palin has taught us anything, aside from remembering to keep the receipt when we buy a half a continent sparsely populated by lunatics from Russia, it’s that constant media exposure may actually harm one’s chances for the presidency. The continued debates threaten to turn the candidates to caricature, aside from Newt Gingrich, who is a cartoon, and Ron Paul, who’s actually a character from an Ayn Rand novel.

Can anyone tell me where these audiences come from? Were they stocked entirely by Democrats working to make Republicans look bad? I’d say yes if a) Nixon were still alive and switched parties, b) Democrats were organized or c) James O’Keefe  would return my phone calls. This audience was the real deal. First the Republican pro-lifers cheer “Let ’em die” in a question about health insurance and second the Support Our Troops Pro Military party boos at a gay soldier after he asks about the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

You can at least rest knowing that legally married gay partners of veterans are not allowed to receive pensions after their spouses die. As a personal note, I’d like to mention that my mother, who had been divorced from my dad for over twenty years, is still qualified to receive his Naval pension. Because straight divorce is all about American values.

Straw Polls Suck

These straw poles: enough. They cost the candidates a lot of money and time and they’re meaningless. Kind of like baseball’s All-Star game. Or the Move-on.org petition you just sent me.

On the plus side, the straw polls add some fake drama, because they let an unhinged outlier win something, so political journalists can pretend to write serious articles in which they imagine Herman Cain, who won the Florida straw poll, will take over the world until they notice that the Pizzafather has no money or endorsements. He does have a sweet tax plan though, which is abbreviated as 9-9-9, and is something as likely and sensible as the Nine Ringwraiths of Mordor playing Nine innings of baseball against Nine Inch Nails.

Mitt Romney won the Michigan straw poll, because that’s where he’s from. He’s also from Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri and the Moon.

Nothing more than a sad seventh place in Florida for my personal fave Jon Huntsman, who has said that he believes in crazy talk like global warming and evolution and at this point to garner any traction in the polls he’s going to have to set fire to Rick Perry.

The essential problem with straw polls is they  waste resources. The candidates owe more favors to party hacks in each state and need more money from new donors. I don’t mind the GOP blowing its cash on these things, and it serves their own brand of social Darwinism, the only Darwin they let into the room. Survival of the richest. But in a larger way these straw polls are bad for democracy. As much as I enjoy cataloging the village idiots who are on the stage, as an engaged citizen I’d like the guy in the Oval Office, regardless of political party, to be competent enough to do the job.

“Mr. President we’ve confirmed that terrorists have stolen nuclear material from Pakistan. The poverty rate hit 25%, bacteria have developed a resistance to TB drugs and a tornado has leveled half of Kentucky.”

“Is this when I get to abolish the Departments of Energy, Education and anything else that starts with E?”

“That’s not going to help. What should we do?”

“Nothin. Government is not the solution.”

“What about the nukes, sir?

“I’ll let the states handle that.”

Next time: Why President Obama needs a primary challenge.

You hate our president. I know the feeling well.

I hated our previous president. His policies struck me as wrong-headed, and his way of expressing himself rubbed me the wrong way almost every time. Perhaps you can relate.

Your political views have obviously changed over the years. What are your views now as compared to what they were?

I am a hard line independent now, I was extreme right then — not normal far right, but for an all white Christian-only America with a government dedicated to protecting the country and our values from infiltration by other races and religions.


How do you view the political process?

I am fascinated now to see how similar the world of politics in the US is to the world of gangs.  It’s not enough for our politicians to label themselves Democrat or Republican — they have to wear a blue or a red tie, our states are classified as red states and blue states.  They are all wearing gang colors, and our country is represented as a turf map, red vs. blue — it’s like the Bloods and the Crips. I used to use the state of politics to motivate gang members and divide “us” from “them”; now I see how political parties and the media use the methodology of gangs to divide and motivate the country. It’s not enough to be loyal to your gang, you have to hate all the other gangs.


In this analogy, who are the gang king pins? Who are the foot soldiers?

Or for sure, the king pins are the lobbyists. You would think it would be the president; or the people, but the lobbyists and special interest groups are the baller shot callers, they control every law and policy that is passed. Everything they do is motivated by profit, the bottom line. The politicians and the media are the foot soldiers/drug peddlers, working their states like a dealer works his corner — selling people what they want to hear, convincing them that this new brand of drug is what they REALLY need, when ultimately it is just lining pockets up the chain of command. We’re the bitches. We buy what they sell, get hooked on their rhetoric, and fight each other to protect our colors and turf.


Speaking of drugs, you used to have a drug problem. Does our country need an intervention?

One of the lowest points in my life was when a bunch of active crackheads felt compelled to give ME an intervention because they were worried about my “unhealthy choices.”  We have a bunch of unstable television pundits, addicted to fame and so desperate for their next hit that they spin issues out of thin air, telling us that we’re in danger as a result of the choices we’ve made through our democratic process. They tell us what to think and what to say.  We’re so convinced that arguing with each other is empowering that we actually listen to these people, instead of deciding for ourselves what is good or bad, or if we even care.  We need to step back and realize what a low point that is for all of us. Anytime you’re looking to the crackheads for advice, its time to re-evaluate.



It’s Election Season across the USA,  which means there’s a lot of terrific television programs on to distract you from voting. Complicating matters, the howling ads interrupting those terrific television programs often distract from the real issues at stake: how exactly is the government wasting your hard-earned money this time around?

This handy guide attempts to clarify the tangible benefits of government programs to you, the humble internet-faring, presumably young/hipsterish taxpayer, via three basic categories: government programs that help, government programs that are probably screwing you over, and government programs that nobody understands.

GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS THAT HELP

Emergency Services

I’ve always romanticized being a cop, so when a life of office work snared me I turned to 911 to vicariously live my dream job. In the past three years, I’ve used 911 to call in a Mexican teen receiving a blowjob in the children’s park across the street from my house (in broad daylight on the Fourth of July), a Mexican covered in blood leaning against a elementary school wall, and another Mexican writhing on the sidewalk with cuts on his arm and a hospital band on his wrist. Not to make unfair generalizations, but the nation of Mexico owes me a few tacos on the house.

Department of Defense

You can’t ignore the DoD’s perfect record of preventing foreign invasion of American territory, Pearl Harbor notwithstanding. Also, we could be drafted at any time—Iran lobs one nuke at Tel Aviv, and the laws will change overnight—so I’ll use the remainder of this space to underscore my nearsightedness, flat feet, lengthy track record of conscientious objection, extreme allergy to gunpowder, and heartfelt affection for United States military personnel.

Health Care

Seven years ago, Blue Shield rejected me because I’d had a wart on my thumb two years prior. I had to go without formal health care for a year, instead procuring medical advice from night-shift pharmacists, hippie free clinics, and the internet. It was a thrilling experience, in the same way climbing up a sheer rock face in a thunderstorm while juggling chainsaws is thrilling. Pretty much anything would be an improvement.

Roads

Until you get that jetpack up and running, you’ll likely take roads to get around. Personally, I find that while my local Northern California roads are ranked among the worst in the nation in terms of quality, they should be ranked first in the nation in terms of breathtaking scenery. Moreover, my regional snow-removal teams are second-to-none, making premium powder skiing accessible even in a blizzard. Here’s to roads for making it happen.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Did you see that picture Arnold posted making fun of Sarah Palin looking for Russia from Alaska? I totally retweeted it.


GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS THAT ARE PROBABLY SCREWING YOU OVER

Social Security

It’s an open national secret that Social Security won’t exist in forty years, right about the time we’ll need it. However, my generation is getting accustomed to living shittier, and we aren’t putting up much of a fight on this one. Thus, I toss Social Security in the same pile as pensions, reasonably priced health insurance, three-martini lunches, regular churchgoing, four-week vacations, affordable concert tickets, and marriage for life—myths invented by our ancestors and passed down over the generations to pacify the masses.

Subsidies

On the one hand, Doritos and gas are cheap, fostering a nation dominated by lazy flab-asses. On the other hand, organic vegetables and solar panels are expensive, fostering a snooty elitist minority that isn’t much fun at a Super Bowl party. I won’t rest until everyone in American can enjoy a lively Super Bowl party dip of organic guacamole at a fair price.

Bank Bailout

Let’s say you’re at a casino. One distinguished gentleman—let’s call him Charles Barkley—steps to the high-roller table and proceeds to lose a fortune on Pai Gow Poker. As a result, the casino asks all the other patrons to float Charles a loan to cover his bartab, hotel suite, steak dinners, and escort services. Just another reason why I consider the NBA unwatchable.

Iraq

All that fighting, the lives lost, the nations in turmoil, the enormous expense—and we didn’t even get the oil. Plus, Avatar totally should’ve beat The Hurt Locker at the Oscars.

Investment in Innovation

Think of all the terrific advances of recent times, everything from the iPod Nano to the iPhone and even the iPad or—could it be true?—the Verizon iPhone. Not a single one was invented by the government.


GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS NOBODY UNDERSTANDS

Taxes

An unimaginably boring topic, especially for a nation lagging in math and science as badly as this one. Thus, we primitively revert to the Law of the Limbo Stick: lower is always better, unless you’re really rich and about to die.

Medicare and Medicaid

Always remind me of Tweedledum and Tweedledee.


Jesus.

Spitting on people? Hurling racial and sexual abuse at elected representatives as they go to fulfill the responsibilities of the offices they were elected to serve in?

Goddamnit.

This is going to shape up as a hugely interesting Sunday, and there’s no two ways about that. And while Glenn Beck, who gives foaming at the mouth a bad name, declares that voting on a Sunday is an affront to God (what? WHAT?) the wheels of legislature are indeed turning and we’ll just have to wait and see what’s going to come out at the other end of the mill.

I wish (it’s a common refrain of mine, I know) that I was in the States right now. Now more so than ever, because I’ve been watching the political scene over there with vague and growing interest. This would appear to be a tipping point raising its head – no one’s really sure where healthcare’s going to jump, but it’s a fountainhead of issues, none more clearly illustrated at present than the deep and bitter divide consuming the political life-force of the nation.

Or, at least, that’s what we get told over here.

Where to from here?

I just hope it doesn’t include spitting.

This year, being the proud Obamabot that I am, I eagerly followed the left wing conspiracy all the way to my garden. Never mind the fact that I live at 9000 ft in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and get exactly 11.3 weeks of contiguous summer. The White House grounds currently survive an inordinate measure of chill under the scrutiny of the GOP. If Michelle could do it, I reasoned, so could I.

There are so many reasons why growing a vegetable garden appeals to me – not least of which is that we live so far away from Boulder. Being 40 minutes from the nearest grocery store has instilled in me a sense of creative do-it-yourself-ness. If I’m out of bread, I make it. If my kids are craving chicken nuggets, I break out the Fry Daddy. Krispy Kreme donuts? You better believe I’ve got a recipe and I’m not afraid to use it. I am a little old fashioned that way. Go ahead, make fun of me. I’ve still got my kickboxing gear and I’m not afraid to use that, either.

So when I run out of the basics—the lettuce, the tomatoes, the flour—I tend to panic a bit. These are the things that the Fry Daddy simply cannot construct. Having a garden would help me feel not so helpless over the distance. If I could just learn the way of the green thumb, I could break free from my dependence.

Since we have such a short growing season, we planted our seeds in late February, to ensure plenty of growing time. We Zone 4 gardeners were going to need as much help as we could get.

We put our little seeds by an East-facing window and waited for them to sprout. It was our daughter’s job to make sure that the dirt stayed moist and safe. But despite her diligence, nothing happened. Five-year-olds are not strong on patience and when there was no sign of a single sprout by May 1st, she gave up. She had also recently procured for herself a hamster. Hamsters always trump gardens.

Not to worry, I told myself as I took over her job of filling the watering can one morning. It was only May. No doubt those seeds knew this – and that’s why they hadn’t sprouted. They were on some sort of timer, just waiting for us to edge closer to summer.

I’ve never been very active politically before and it felt good to be doing something so directly supportive of the American way of life. May passed. June began. It was still cold and overcast most days, but a few sprouts had begun to appear. The carrots. The lettuce. They weren’t yet much – maybe a couple inches tall – but they had clearly awakened from their little veggie dreamland and were getting ready to go to town.

Ha! I thought to myself as I transplanted the seedlings in containers on my deck. Yes, we can!

Stoked to see the first fruits of my civic responsibility, I searched the Internet to see how Michelle’s garden was coming along. Just, you know, checking in. To my surprise and abject horror, the news was abuzz with the first White House harvest.

Here is a picture of the first lady harvesting some lettuce the size of elephant ears:

OK. Baby elephants. Possibly still fetal. But you get my point.

I considered my options. Should I boost the nutrition content of my soil? Should I buy a heat lamp and direct it over the containers during the afternoons when sun was sparse? Do a shaman sun dance? Build a sweat lodge? What would Michelle do?

Being the responsible Democrat I am, I once again consulted the Internet. I knew that Michelle’s garden was organic and therefore so should be mine, so I ruled out pesticides and enhancers. I couldn’t very well have a Monsanto garden. Very unpatriotic.

But despite my diligence and occasional naked moonlit dancing, things continued to slow down the progress of my patriotism.

First, a woodrat snuck in under the netting one night and razed the tomato plants to the ground. Didn’t eat the plants or anything. Just mowed them down and left them all akimbo to rot. Like a fucking Weed Whacker.

Next, I caught my 2-year-old blowing bubbles over the garden and then watering the pots with her bubble solution. Aha, I said to myself. It was entirely possible that this was not the first time this had happened. Truth be told, I had been suspecting it for a while as I had found an open bottle of “Miracle Bubbles” in close proximity to the growing zone more than once. But now that I had caught her in the midst of this act of agroterrorism, I raised the Homeland Security flag to red and sent her to her room amidst a flurry of tears and general toddler angst.

I had always suspected she was a Republican.

Coincidentally (or perhaps not) this was about at the same time of the fateful soil sample that spoiled the organic status of the First Garden. Her garden. It turns out that years earlier the Clintons had used sewage sludge to fertilize the lawn. The result? Highly elevated levels of lead. And still…local lead is better than imported lead, right? Right?

That little discovery didn’t stop Michelle from serving up home grown endive salads in the White House banquets and it wasn’t going to stop me. So I had now lost my zucchini. My Anaheims. My beets. I was not about to be thwarted in doing my part to make a better America just because of a hamster, bad weather, and the fact that a little old wood rat and a toddler had gotten into my garden and destroyed, oh, 80% of my potential crop thus far. I still had my lettuce, my chives, and my carrots, too. By all accounts, I was still looking at one fine salad at the end of the growing season. One mighty fine salad.

For the next couple weeks before the snow started to fly, I diligently watched over my struggling crop. The salad leaves were doing great and the two surviving carrots we had planted way back in February looked promising. More than promising. Long, lacy leaves towered above the remaining now-barren pots like a liberty flag. Nothing could stop us now. I might not have much of anything else left, but those two carrots made everything else OK. Those carrots meant that although obstacles had gotten in the way, there was still hope. Hope for a better garden next year. Hope for a better tomorrow. Hope for life itself and for the future of all that is good and right. Those carrots were the American dream.

I watched over those carrots like a mother bear watches over her cub. Long afternoons were spent near the window and sitting on a chair overlooking the remainder of my freedom garden. We were in the final stretch.

Finally, the day came when I knew we couldn’t wait any longer. Snow was imminent and the nights would soon see the first frosts of autumn. I gathered the kids and we got to work. First the lettuce, then the chives. Next the carrots. It was glorious. True, it may not have been the bumper crop–or even the full salad bowl–for which I had hoped, but what we did pull up was inspiring, nonetheless. It was indeed the hope for a better tomorrow and for the prosperity of our progeny. Those carrots symbolized a new generation of global minded world citizens who would usher in an era of peace, justice and fulfillment for all. Hell, those carrots were not just carrots – they were Adam and Eve. I believe the picture speaks for itself:



One thing I’m not too fond of is blind adherence. I think it’s a good idea to occasionally take a step back from whatever you’re doing and ask “Does this make sense?”

Curiosity can’t be a bad thing, at least not in most cases.

This is why I detest politics. I often get the feeling that politically passionate people don’t think about their view points. Rather it seems like they take whatever ideology they identify with and blindly defend it.

Growing up in a middle-class Texas household, you can guess what my upbringing was like: somewhat socially conservative, very fiscally conservative. So that’s the kind of person I was until I became old enough to think critically, when I started noticing certain bits of hypocrisy in the social side.

So gradually I migrated away from social conservatism, but still held onto my fiscal conservatism.

In my first election I felt firmly Republican, but in subsequent years I didn’t identify with a party. If anything I seemed a bit like a Libertarian, but really I didn’t understand why I had to pick. Of course I realize there are practical benefits to the two-party system, but personally I hate it. The world does not fit into a system of black or white, so why should we shoehorn something as complex as politics into that model?

When I look around at the various issues we debate about, I wonder how it’s possible that they all seem to line up perfectly with political party platforms. Whether we’re talking about global warming or stem cell research or national health care or immigration or economics or whatever, I just don’t understand how it’s possible that all of these issues can somehow line up perfectly on the right and the left.

The answer is: They don’t. It’s us that forces them to, or rather pundits and activists who do it.

And when you begin asking questions about your long-held beliefs, you can easily become the political enemy of those who were previously your allies.

Fiscal conservatism stuck with me for many years because I felt like people ought to earn their own way in life, and if they happened to find success, they shouldn’t be unduly penalized for it. I didn’t really understand why I or anyone else should pay money to subsidize people who didn’t work as hard. I mean, no one gave me a free ride. I worked various jobs since I was 11 to help pay my university tuition, and worked full time in college as well.

Of course, my middle-class upbringing offered me opportunities that were harder to come by for someone who grew up in the projects. But I didn’t really see why that was my fault. But also…I didn’t really see why it was THEIR fault, either. If you’re BORN into poverty, how is that your fault?

I don’t know if there are easy answers for such problems.

On global warming, after watching “An Inconvenient Truth,” I was sold on the idea of humans being the major cause behind rising temperatures. Then I spoke to a few people who disagreed (with reasonable proof to back up their claims), and my position softened. I read a little and I decided it was difficult to know just how much humans were causing global warming. But I also figured I should do things within my power to help, however small they might be, like recycling and using energy efficient appliances, lights, etc. Just because we humans might not be the main cause doesn’t mean we are obligated to be intentionally wasteful.

Recently I spent some time discussing economics with someone more knowledgeable about the subject than me. This person is of the opinion that the United States doesn’t collect enough tax revenue. Our infrastructure is crumbling and our social programs are abysmal because we have the lowest tax burden in the world among industrialized nations, he says.

This, of course, flies in the face of my economic conservatism. But instead of outright rejecting his ideas, I’m trying to understand them. He believes Democrats and Republicans are BOTH conservative and none will raise taxes to an appropriate level because we Americans won’t stand for it. When the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans earn a postwar record 21 percent of all income in the U.S., he says, the only way to protect our country from eventual economic collapse is to make the rich pay more taxes…especially people who were born into wealth, who comprise the majority of the super-rich. The middle class cannot and should not be expected to give more. And he tells me how China and Japan and Europe are eventually going to want changes in government spending if they are going to continue to finance our massive national debt.

I don’t know if this guy is right, but his positions seem well-reasoned enough for me to consider them. The infrastructure here in Oklahoma is downright embarrassing, but in my home state of Texas it’s pretty good. What’s the difference? Also, I’ve never had much of an opinion about health insurance because I have an extremely good plan where I work. But a self-employed friend of mine recently started looking for health insurance, and she was quoted $1250 a month for a pretty basic plan. I mean, come on. That’s a mortgage payment. It’s absurd. But is government-sponsored health care the answer? Or is health care simply too expensive? Will effective health care eventually be feasible only for the rich?

What are the answers? I don’t know. But what I do know is they don’t lie on just one side of the political landscape. Republicans aren’t right about everything, and neither are Democrats. Anyone who believes differently should be given a set of Crayons and sent back to first grade.

Notice how there aren’t just two colors in the box?