Gout

So, recently, I was diagnosed with gout. When the doctor said the word “gout,” immediately, I thought:  “Gout? What am I, a Charles Dickens character?”

It started when I was walking through Bayshore Towne Centre on my way to meet the wife for a lovely (albeit prohibitively large-portioned dinner) at The Cheesecake Factory. I felt a pain in my right big toe as if someone (a lower-class, ne’er-do-well street urchin, no doubt) had stabbed it with a knife.

Dinner was egregiously delicious; forcibly pinning my taste buds under its bulk before having its way with my esophagus. But my toe pain continued to worsen.

The next morning, it was red and swollen like a vine-ripened Roma tomato. For nearly a week, I “manned up.” I limped around in what I hoped looked like a paratrooper bravely walking away from a ‘chute mishap, when, in fact, I probably looked more like a doughy pirate in a pique polo.

Finally, I went to the doctor. I hate doctors. I don’t hate them as people; rather I hate visiting them. They’re reminders that my body is indeed breaking down. I prefer to ignore my mortality on a day-to-day basis; I find it’s easier to run to Home Depot for some landscaping stones when I’m not rocking back and forth having an existential crisis. Doctors shatter the illusion. Doctors are there to assure you that your long, slow march towards death is making progress.

My doctor was a short man with salt and pepper hair on his head and in his ears. He wasn’t fat, but he was certainly stout. In another time, he would have been a doctor that made house calls and preferred Lucky Strikes because they were toasted.

He was very professorial and pedantic; as if he was convinced that not only did I not understand Medicine, but English. And on this particular day, he was training a resident from Concordia.

He told her to tell me that I had gout.

Gout is a kind of arthritis that is caused by a build-up of uric acid. Uric acid is created when the body breaks down foods containing purines. The uric acid then forms painful crystals in certain joints like the big toe.

The doctor prescribed an anti-inflammatory called Indomethacin, and sent me hobbling on my way.

The prescription worked well enough, but when the pills were gone, the gout came back. I even followed the recommended dietary changes. Sure it was difficult to give up sardines, “organ meat,” asparagus and brewer’s yeast, but somehow I managed. And still it came back.

With nowhere else to turn, I looked up some “Alternative Medicine” websites. I was fully expecting remedies like:  “With a mortar and pestle, grind the dried penis of an albino Chupacabra. Add one drop of Belladonna milk, and combine with a liberal tincture of birthday clown tears…” But, instead, at the top of every list of alternative cures on every alternative medicine website was the same advice:  “Drink lots of water.” “Duh,” they could’ve added, but thankfully didn’t.

It made perfect sense:  Water will flush the kidneys, dilute the solution of uric acid, dissolve the crystals in the joint, and send the whole sordid affair out and, because I’m male, in the general vicinity of the toilet.

So, over the course of that first day, I drank a gallon of water, twice the recommended amount. There was never a point when I didn’t have a cup, canteen or bottle. Sure enough, the swelling began to subside. The next day, I did the same. Towards the end of the third day, for the first time in two weeks, I put all of my weight on my gouty foot. Today, the swelling is totally gone due, I’m convinced, to drinking “lots of water.”

Turns out, it worked better than Indomethacin, but nobody ever got rich by writing a prescription for water.

Is water a cure-all? Obviously not, and no Journals of Medicine are going to be re-written based on an anecdotal blog in an obscure corner of the World Wide Inter Tubes, but dehydration exacerbates so many conditions, and the benefits of water are undeniable.

If you’re ever diagnosed with gout, give it a try, and for God’s sake, stay away from “organ meat.”

-Dylan

Victoria Day

Good morning. And if you’re anything like me and your morning has been postponed to early afternoon, you, like me, probably had a pretty good Victoria Day.

Obviously, we here in America like to co-opt the national celebrations of other countries. It’s our way of saying to our international colleagues that, if only for a moment, we coexist in solidarity…if there’s drinking. We feel your pain/share your joy…and we plan on taking a personal day from work tomorrow. Your independence, gained through the blood of your patriots…hang on. Check out the Tank Top Turkeys on that brunette! Ima get me some digits! Holla!

We Americans love your drinking holidays. Ireland has St. Patrick’s Day. Mexico has Cinco de Mayo. Israel has Purim.

But what ah-boot our neighbors to the North? The country that the United States wears like an adorable toque? The country that invented Poutine, a semi-edible food stuff consisting of French fries, cheese curds and brown “gravy.”

Canadian Poutine

Canadian Poutine

Clearly, it has been pre-digested for your convenience. Seriously. Eat an order of Poutine, and with every bite you can actually feel your body take a baby step towards death.

Turns out, Canada has a little something called Victoria Day. It might be one of those lightly-shaded holidays, printed in italics on your wall calendar to make it look more exotic. You’ve probably written:  “JEREMY SOCCER PRACTICE 3:30” over it, so maybe you didn’t even notice.

The kids (les enfants) call Victoria Day “May Two-Four,” not only because it falls roughly on May 24th every year, but because “Two-Four” is Canadian slang for a case of beer, which it is customary for every Canadian citizen to drink on Victoria Day.

Anyway, I got up before sunrise and flew my Royal Union flag. I’m not a Canadian government building or anything, but I find that flying the flag gives me something to do while I drink my first beer.

Then I sang “Happy Birthday” to the reigning Canadian monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, and poured some Molson out for monarchs gone by.

I loaded up my cooler and headed out for the Victoria Day parade, but, believe it or not, Victoria Day hasn’t caught on here in the States, and the parades are hard to come by. So, I dragged my cooler down to the freeway. It was like a really fast parade where, instead of candy, the floats threw cigarette butts.

Later that night it was fireworks time. Not too many fireworks stores open, so I just filled my empties with rags and lawnmower gasoline. The party really got started when the S.W.A.T. team showed up.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go throw up, or, as the Canadians call it:  “Make Poutine.” In closing, here’s an incomplete list of Canadian actors and musicians who I’m sure feel as bad as I do today:

Alan Thicke, Alex Trebeck (“Jeopardy”), Brendan Fraser, Bret Hart (wrestler), Carrie-Anne Moss, Christopher Plummer, Dan Akroyd, Donald Sutherland, Doug Henning (magician), Eugene Levy, Howie Mandel, Ivan Reitman (Director), James Cameron (Director), James Doohan, Jason Priestley, Jennifer Tilly, Jim Carey, John Candy, Keanu Reeves, Keifer Sutherland, Leslie Nielsen, Lorne Greene, Lorne Michaels (creator/producer of “Saturday Night Live”), Margot Kidder, Martin Short, Matthew Perry, Michael J. Fox, Mike Myers, Monty Hall (“Let’s Make a Deal”), Neve Campbell, Norm MacDonald, Norman Jewison, Pamela Anderson, Peter Jennings, Phil Hartman, Raymond Burr, Rick Moranis, Tommy Chong (of Cheech and Chong), Vic Drover, William Shatner, Alanis Morisette, Anne Murray, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Barenaked Ladies, Bryan Adams, Corey Hart, Cowboy Junkies, Crash Test Dummies, Celine Dion, Gordon Lightfoot, Guy Lombardo, Holly Cole, Jann Arden, Joni Mitchell, K. D. Lang, Kim Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Oscar Peterson, Paul Anka, Robbie Robertson, Rush, Sarah McLachlan, Shania Twain, Steppenwolf, and The Guess Who.

Merci.

-Dylan

The Miller Park Summit

Recently, an acquaintance wrote to me in an email saying:  “Boy, Wisconsin politics must be a gold mine for a comedian.”

You’d think. But in fact, it’s more of a mine field. Sure, you can joke about it; just don’t be surprised when the heckling is accompanied by small arms fire. Honestly, it’s like working a comedy club owned by Cormac McCarthy.

We go about our normal day, but really we’re at “Indignant DEFCON 1.” We sit still but tense and, inside, violence looms like the infected green hue on the horizon that precedes a tornado. We wait, opinions coiled. Then the trigger:  “Union thug.” “Fascist!” “Lefty!” “RACIST!”

The discourse races past the discussion phase, and directly to “verbal slap fight.” We tag our figurative Facebook “walls” with our affiliations, and arrange those same “walls” around those of like mind. We pass around the Kool-Aid and drink from a communal cup.

Now, as some of you may know, I tend to lean left. Personally, I don’t see the word “liberal” as profanity. Sure, that means I hate America, and I think everyone should have an abortion (two for flinching), but it’s the only way to ensure my New World Order. Soon, Toby Keith and I will meet atop Mount Rushmore, and battle for the soul of Freedom.

Well, last night, I was invited to attend a ball game at Miller Park with a friend of mine who happens to think differently. He considers himself a “Conservative.”

Needless to say, I was wary. I mean who wants to sit next to a guy who eats minority babies all night, and then lights a cigar off of a flaming kitten soaked in sweet, sweet crude oil?

But I love baseball.

Sitting there next to him, I was surprised as how life-like his costume was. His skin and hair seemed so real. Dare I engage him in conversation?

Thankfully, he broke the ice by mentioning a recent Facebook dust-up. A comment of his had offended a friend. As he explained it, the comment was the result of a story he had heard regarding a certain union leaning on a certain business establishment for support. If the support was not given, the establishment would be picketed by said union. In my friend’s opinion, this was “thuggish.”

Now, I hadn’t heard about that, but if this was indeed the truth, I agreed that, yes, that sounded like a very “thuggish” thing to do.

By way of Quid Pro Quo, I mentioned my continuing belief in the social contract to which we as Americans had agreed on behalf of the elderly, disadvantaged and infirm, and my faith in the credo that “a rising tide raises all ships.” Even if it meant that we, the strong, fortunate and able-bodied, would have to pay for it with something called “taxes.”

When he didn’t reply by punching me in the mouth while stroking a tiny statue of Ronald Reagan, I felt something that I had not felt in so very long.

I felt human.

It was the opposite of the feeling I got while reading a Facebook post that I was sure was directed at me and only me; a passive-aggressive jab at my sensibilities, intelligence and patriotism.

Why had that human feeling been so elusive of late? What “wall” was holding it back? I arrived at the following:

There’s no such thing as a shared experience anymore.

At least they’re very rare. Instead, we sit at our computers, lords of a universe that is more than happy to pander. We listen to “My Playlist” on “MySpace” while surfing “My Preferences.” Our friends are no longer flesh and bone, but rather avatars consisting of the sum total of so many photos and comments. And those not deemed “My Friends” become intruders by proxy; unwelcome guests in “My Universe.”

We have nothing left to learn.

It’s as if we’ve arrived at this place, in this moment with all we need to know, and as evolved as we’re going to get. We’re like laptops, fresh off the line, complete with all the bundled software we’ll ever need.

You can teach me nothing, so I will find those who know what I know. I will seek no knowledge. I will only seek to celebrate or protest, and in doing so, I will create truth. If your voice is not the echo of mine, it is the enemy of mine.

And in the words of Kurt Vonnegut:  “So it goes.”

But the Miller Park Summit taught me something in spite of myself:  Humanity is the way to humility, and humility is the way to wisdom. I’d like to think that I just thought of that, but, wouldn’t you know it, someone beat me to it:

“Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” –Proverbs 11:2

-Dylan

10 cm

I’m finding it difficult to talk about being an expectant father. There are many reasons, not the least of which is that I have no idea what I’m talking about. Tell a story to someone who’s a parent already and they’ll look at me like they’re listening to a 15-year-old girl pontificate on the subject of love. It’s cute.

“Awww. Honey, come here and look at the stupid man.”

And if I tell a story to someone who’s not a parent (like I was for 40 years), they’ll look at me like I’m part of the problem.

So, with such broad ambivalence on either side, the least I can do is try to make it entertaining.

But, it turns out that there actually is a small demographic who can relate, and my wife and I spent six hours with them last Saturday when we, and 11 other couples, went to our first birthing class.

Now, the first thing you think when you see another pregnant couple is:  “Wow, those two totally did it.” Well, maybe you don’t think that, but the 10 year old boy who operates my sense of humor certainly did.

The instructor had us stand in a line based on our due date, which also served at the order in which we would introduce ourselves. My wife introduced us, told everyone we were having a girl and announced our due date. Any normal couple would leave it at that, but I had to chime in with:  “It’s not mine, but I swear I’ll raise it as if it were.”

An uncomfortable silence hung heavy in the room. My wife hung her head.

“I’m just kidding. It’s mine. Ha ha,” I said, but 2 minutes and 45 seconds into our six hours, the trust had already been betrayed.

Then they showed The Video. If you’ve been to a birthing class, you know the one I’m talking about. If you haven’t, just recall the film you saw in Drivers Ed, and replace “devastating car crash” with “woman in labor.”

The narrator was cheerful and upbeat, but every scene showed a sweaty woman in absolute agony, and a shell-shocked husband crouched beside her like a shortstop waiting to field a live grenade.

Then, the instructor passed around a chart illustrating the various stages of dilation. That’s when I learned what “10cm” was. Centimeters always seemed fairly benign to me, as if, someday, if they worked hard enough, they would become inches. But now I know that centimeters are bastards.

It’s no coincidence that 10 centimeters equals 1 decimeter, and that the word “decimeter” shares a root with “decimate.” And this, gentle reader, is why America rejected the metric system.

So clearly there’s going to be pain, and a lot of it. Ideally, I learned, the husband is there to help alleviate some of the pain, which is much better than my initial plan; pulling my knees up to my chest, rocking back and forth and weeping until someone hands me a baby.

The last half of the class was devoted to the intimate massaging designed to sooth the mother’s contractions and general discomfort. Coincidentally, this was one of the many moments that our baby chose to make Mommy use the bathroom. Without my wife to focus on, I had no choice but to glance around the room.

What began as a normal class full of normal people now resembled Caligula’s Rome. There were couples on the floor, on all fours, sitting on exercise balls. There were tilting pelvises, clumsy rubbings, and I swear the couple next to me was demonstrating how they came to find themselves in a birthing class in the first place.

Until that moment, I never knew how hard it was to try and focus on absolutely nothing.

We have another six-hour class next week. I’m going to bring a bottle of wine.

-Dylan

What’s the Opposite of a Boycott?

Things have been mighty contentious in Wisconsin lately. One the plus side, as is the case in most “dust ups,” eventually the dust settles, and, for better or worse, the landscape looks different than it once did. This particular battle between Wisconsin’s new Governor and hundreds of thousands of protesters seems to revolve around creating a fertile climate for the creation of Wisconsin jobs on one hand, and the fate of the current working class on the other.

In order to lure corporations and companies of all sizes away from keeping jobs in Mexico, South America and overseas (and away from Americans), those corporations need incentives. Corporations are like sharks; they’re not big on thoughtfulness, and their brains aren’t large enough to accommodate nuanced ideas like empathy and self-awareness. As Richard Dreyfus said in the movie Jaws:  “All they do is swim and eat and make baby sharks.”

Likewise, all corporations care about is profit. If you accept this idea, and choose to negotiate the reality, you can ride this wave like a backdoor surfer pulling into the tube from behind the peak. Or you can fight it and get pummeled into the coral.

And aren’t jobs what we’re demanding? Wasn’t that the message the voters sent? Well, corporations aren’t about to be gracious and give up a portion of their profits just to knock an 8.3% unemployment rate down to 8.2%. Not a chance.

However, they will consider moving their operations to America/Wisconsin/Your Neighborhood if they can get the payroll of Mexico, the regulations of China, and the cheap energy of Venezuela. And that’s where the fight against organizations like labor unions and the EPA begin.

Organized labor says:  “We have a couple of demands, the first of which is that you have to pay American workers more than a dollar a day like in Mexico. In fact, we would like for there to be a minimum wage.”

The EPA (the Environmental Protection Agency) says:  “I’m sorry; you can’t put PCB’s in the rivers, contaminate the ground water, or encroach upon Wetland habitats.”

And the corporations respond with:  “Very well, we’ll remain in areas where we can, thank you very much.”

While this makes it possible for Americans to afford cheap merchandise from big-box stores like Wal-Mart and Target, and fast food from dollar menus which, because American jobs have been shipped elsewhere, is the only alternative for many, and the vicious cycle keeps rolling along.

So, while Governors can’t entice corporations with $1-a-day salaries and consequence-free dumping of industrial byproducts, they can offer tax incentives. It’s happening all over; Wisconsin, Michigan Ohio, Florida, and Tennessee just to name a few. Budgets everywhere include tax breaks for corporations and businesses, but the money has to come from somewhere. In the end, it’s an issue of quantity versus quality. In order for more people to join what passes for the middle class today, the current middle class will have to relinquish some of its “rights,” because the businesses are clearly not going to relinquish “profits.”

I have friends whose ideologies land on both sides of the debate. I have friends that endorse the actions of Governor Walker and his ilk, and friends that whose lives will be negatively impacted by those same actions. I’ve watched the protests, I’ve made my opinion known to my elected representatives, and I write my opinions down here because, dammit, I’m paying for the web hosting.

I’ve also read about proposed boycotts. Don’t support products made by Koch Industries, don’t shop at QuikTrip, don’t keep your money in an M&I bank.

This, of course, is your right as an American citizen and a consumer, but consider this:  After deciding where not to spend your disposable income, where do you spend it? Your dollar is, after all, the only direct relationship you have with most corporations. Therefore, I propose the following experiment:  If you value the American worker, spend your next $10 of disposable income on something that’s made in America.

I’m not suggesting that you get off the foreign-made grid completely; just the next $10.

If every one of, say, 100,000 protesters that marched on the capitol in Madison, Wisconsin spent their next $10 on something made in America, that’s a $1 million dollar statement that will speak just as loudly to corporations as our votes speak to our elected leaders.

For instance, let’s say your car needs new tires. If you do a little digging (which you now don’t have to because I did it for you), you’ll find that roughly 90% of Cooper tires are still made in the good ol’ U.S.A. (Ohio and Georgia specifically). Now, please know that you’re going to spend a little more for American-made products, but if we want corporations to invest in America, shouldn’t we as consumers be willing to do the same?

Here are a few websites to get you started:

How To Buy American

American Made Products and Services

Still Made in the USA

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:  You can march on the capitol and bang on your plastic five-gallon pail in the rotunda all you want, but if that plastic five-gallon pail is made in Sri Lanka and the tag on your Urban Outfitters hoodie says “Hecho en Honduras,” you’ve already told the corporations what you really value.

-Dylan

This Probably Won’t Change Your Mind

So a Rabbi, a priest and a Chinese guy walk into a bar in Madison, Wisconsin.

The Rabbi says:  “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?”Rabbi Hillel

The priest says:  “Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance.”St. Francis of Assisi

And the Chinese guy says:  “But erections have consequences.”

Ha!

Actually, the Chinese guy says:  “He who wished to secure the good of others, has already secured his own.”Confucius

Which is why it pains me to see friends, neighbors and even families so bitterly divided over Governor Scott Walker’s Budget Repair Bill, and its attempt to strip Public Employees’ right to collectively bargain.

“What rights!?” “Where do these rights come from!?” screams a Conservative friend.

I don’t know. Where do any rights come from? We make them up. Then we write them into contracts. Contracts like the ones that allowed bank executives to receive jaw-dropping bonuses despite a clearly sub-par 2008.

Your tax dollars, unceremoniously yoinked from your paycheck, and transferred to stagnating pools of capital in the bank account of a person who routinely finds the equivalent of your weekly take home in their sofa cushions.

And you can forget about it ever “trickling” back down. If that were the plan, no one would have a problem with a 3% marginal income tax increase or even the Estate (Death) Tax for that matter. I’m sure we can agree that certain people are lobbying very hard to keep that from ever happening. So hard, in fact, that wealth seems to be trickling in the opposite direction. That other stuff, however, continues to roll downhill like it always has.

But look at me engaging in “class warfare.” I think I owe the top 2% of you an apology. I see now that those bonuses were necessary to help these firms “retain talent.” Mortgage default swaps don’t just conceive of themselves and then magically convince Moody’s to give them a “AAA” rating. That takes talent, and I get that now. Clearly, this is for the common good and more than worthy of my taxes.

However, I humbly ask this:  If you believe that our current economic situation is NOT the result of fraud and theft at the very top business and financial institutions, but is because a teacher can have a say in how big her class size should be, we’re just going to have to agree to disagree.

And if you believe that our state debt is in NO WAY connected to our Federal debt, and that our Federal debt is in NO WAY connected to two decade-long wars and a prescription drug plan paid for on the country’s credit card, but instead is because cops, via collective bargaining, can require that all of their officers get bullet-proof vests, we should probably talk about something else.

If you believe that $35 billion in oil subsidies is money well spent, but a nurse being able to put a reasonable limit on her shift is bankrupting the state, we will probably never see eye to eye here.

And if you truly believe that Charles and David Koch have only your best interests in mind, (unless Scott Walker is reading this, in which case, thank you for reading, Governor Walker) there’s probably not much I can say to convince you otherwise.

We’ve heard what Governor Scott Walker (graduate Delavan/Darien High School, 1986) has had to say, now let’s here what Walter Scott (Scottish novelist and poet, 1771-1832) had to say:

“The race of mankind would perish did they cease to aid each other. We cannot exist without mutual help. All therefore that need aid have a right to ask it from their fellow-men; and no one who has the power of granting can refuse it without guilt.”

“The working man is not the enemy, butWorking Girl’ starring Harrison Ford and Melanie Griffith sure is.”Gene Shalit (1988)

Ha!

-Dylan (graduate Rufus King High School [M.P.S.], 1987)

Comments Off on This Probably Won’t Change Your Mind

So…this happened

Thank you so much for clicking. My wife and I have something that we’d like to talk to you about.

There’s no easy way to say this, so I’m just going to jump in with both feet.

You see, when a man and a woman love each other very much, they get married. Sometimes when they love each other very, VERY much, (like my wife and me) they get married twice just to make sure it took.

Well, when they get married, it’s kind of like unlocking an iPhone; they can do all this extra stuff.

Sometimes, without the man and woman even having to pass a test to prove that they are qualified, a parasite begins to grow inside the woman, wearing her like an organic costume and controlling her every move. Apparently, it loves to make its new Woman Suit go to the bathroom every 10 minutes.

It also leeches all of her nutrients, and makes strange hormones surge through the woman. Hormones that sometimes make the woman try to suffocate the man with a pillow while he sleeps.

And you can’t get rid of the parasite; you can only wait until it wants to leave on its own. If you want to see the parasite before it comes out, you have to go to a powerful wizard who squirts X-ray jelly on the woman, and waves a wand that looks like a tiny belt sander.

Then, a magic mirror made by GE Medical shows a picture like this:

This particular parasite seems to be part squid, but I’m told that the other stuff in the picture is some kind of Womb Lava.

According to the wizard, this one is female, meaning the man is now woefully outnumbered, and now sleeps with one eye open.

Anyway, I’m glad we had this little talk.

-Dylan

Tucson

When I first heard about the mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, I was stunned and, frankly, affected more than I thought I would be. I live in the fourth poorest metropolitan area in the Nation, and, every night on the local news, “if it bleeds, it leads.” Sometimes those doing the “bleeding” are elderly, sometimes they are young; most times they are innocent.

During times of self-reflection (or self-absorption), I sometimes wonder what my purpose on this planet is, and I quietly hope that the Universe has something noble planned for me. Then I see and read reports about people that “were at the wrong place at the wrong time” whose lives were “cut tragically short.” Was that what the Universe had planned for them? Rather than go down this nihilistic rabbit hole further, I turn my cynical, leather collar over the gooseflesh raised by such cold thoughts, and continue on with my life.

People die all the time, I say to myself, and another furrow is permanently etched into my brow.

But the shootings in Tucson shook me deeper. It was a direct hit on any sense that I had of goodness, righteousness and justice.

Americans of every stripe ceaselessly congratulate themselves and each other for living in a democracy. We’re the greatest, we’re the best, we’re #1!

In truth, our political system is broken, polarized and partisan beyond any altruistic definition of the word “democracy.” It has become drama complete with protagonists and antagonists, it has become sport complete with my team and your team, and it has become war complete with enemies and allies.

In my opinion, this is done by the various media outlets in order to heighten the impact of their coverage. Let’s face it, the peaceful exchange and discussion of ideas followed by amicable compromise is not nearly as riveting as a “Beltway Bloodbath.”

It behooves politicians to follow suit. If they want coverage, they’d damn well better play ball. And so Congress becomes WWE. There are good guys, bad guys, taunts and threats.

But Congresswoman Giffords was doing it right. In her own small way, she was trying to turn the Washington Octagon back into the People’s House. In a climate of political middle fingers, Congresswoman Giffords was offering the peace sign. Hopefully, her recovery will be speedy and thorough. Sadly, for many of those drawn to her light, there will be no recovery.

Naturally, like a snake eating its own tail, the very same media began opining on “the rhetoric” and its role in the shooting, as if “the rhetoric” was somehow separate from those who broadcast it. The attempt to connect the dots immediately pointed to crosshairs on a map that you’ve surely seen by now.

Ironically, Sarah Palin’s map became itself the target for so much impotent rage. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t share some of that outrage, and in that outrage, I was blinded to what I later saw as the truth.

In keeping with the combative nature of our current discourse, this map had either everything to do with the shootings or absolutely nothing to do with the shootings. I would like to take a centrist cue from Congresswoman Giffords and say that, in my opinion, Sarah Palin’s “Take Back the 20” map had something to do with the shootings, not in the straight-line, causal way that is popularly espoused or refuted, but rather, something more abstract.

“Sarah Palin” is an archetypal character in the ongoing play written by our media. Her character is the folksy, rugged outdoorswoman, and it’s those attributes that she reflects, real or perceived, in her legion of fans. She’s a Mama Grizzly who can handle a rifle and lives by a different code; that of home-spun Prairie Justice. In reality, we know that she’s a multi-millionaire and not “Governor Palin, Medicine Woman,” but her role is crucial to the political passion play, and is a godsend (ratings-wise) to media on both the Left and the Right.

Her map was simply in keeping with that character; her idiom.

The difficulty in determining whether that particular form of expression was harmless or harmful arises because each of us are viewing it through our own prism. Personally, I think the map was in poor taste, and I held that opinion back in March of 2010 when it was first published. Can I separate the image of this map from a literal call to violence? Yes. Can you? Probably. We share that “normal” view.

But the mental nuance required to separate a metaphor from the literal is not shared by everyone; especially those with mental deficiencies or disease. Just like germs will more likely affect a compromised immune system, certain ideas will more likely affect those of a compromised mental state.

Does that mean we curtail our rights as Americans for fear that someone of the afore-mentioned mental state will misconstrue our free speech? Certainly not. But an awareness that our speech has, as Congresswoman Giffords put it, “consequences” is, again, in my opinion, as important as the freedom.

Were Jared Lee Loughner’s actions the fault of Sarah Palin or, for that matter, anyone aside from himself? No. For their parts, Mrs. Palin and her ilk are only being true to the roles in which they were cast. Should the political arena be the high-pitched circus that it is? That, I think, is the more pertinent question.

My initial shock and outrage, and the need to ascribe blame have given way to a different thought. In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare wrote:  “Within the infant rind of this weak flower/ Poison hath residence and medicine power…” I believe that within this tragedy is the answer to the question that all of us are asking:  “How do we keep this from happening again?”

That is, if we chose to wield the “power” and not the “poison.”

I hope that this was a positive addition to the discourse. Thanks for reading.

-Dylan

Twit

So I created a Twitter account.

A friend assured me that it was a crucial tool in the field of “on-line publishing” (A.K.A. writing for free). I tend to think that, as it pertains to providing free content to numerous websites, I am, in fact, the tool, but if I’m going to be exploited, why not go all the way with it?

The minute I clicked the “Create Your Account” button, I became the clueless, European cousin. I imagine this is what the first day of prison is like. (Ex- or current cons, feel free to disagree). What’s the etiquette? Who are the right people to follow? What table should/could I sit at? What groups would I associate with? Who was the biggest, baddest dude on the Block, and would I have to fight him?

Immediately, I had two followers, Brittany2008 and Holly38DD. They seemed very nice, but maybe it was because they were in their underwear. They wanted to exchange pics, but I had a sense that the relationship would be very one-sided. “Sorry, baby,” I wrote to each of them, “I just got here. Besides, you don’t want to get mixed up with a guy li…” And I ran out of characters.

That’s right, I thought, you only get 140.

After learning Twitter Rule #1:  “Blocking Trifling Cyber-Skanks,” it was time to Tweet my first Twitter:

“S-up 1st Twit accnt. Wrred about chrctr cnt. Abvrtng porly n needlesly.”

The statement now hangs there on the world-wide web, unacknowledged.

If you’re so inclined, you can follow me as I stumble around Twitter like a pathetic n00b @DylanBolin. But remember:  “Do not follow me for I may not lead, do not lead for I may not follow, but Tweet beside me and be my friend.” I believe Snoopy said that.

Look, I don’t want no trouble; I just want to serve my time.

-Dylan

Thanks4giving

It’s Thanksgiving, and you want to do your part. You want to give thanks. And thank God it’s Thanksgiving because you’re turgid with gratitude. You’ve been saving it up for a year.

But maybe you don’t have a place for it. I mean, of course you’re thankful, there’s a holiday and everything. And of course you’re grateful, but maybe you don’t know who to give it to.

Hey. I want you to know that I’m here for you. I’d be more than happy to receive all that excess gratitude. And with so many people giving so many thanks, don’t we need someone to say:  “You’re welcome.” Well, I’m here to help.

Without a recipient, your thanks can’t flow. You have impotent gratitude. What good is giving when there’s no one there to take. Well, now there is.

For you, it’s Thanksgiving, but for me, it’s Thankstaking.

There’s no need to thank me…unless you need to…

-Dylan