Silly Smorgasbord & Rough Draft Riffs [Hippie Squared]

My mom used to do a thing she called “Silly Smorgasbord.” She’d raid the refrigerator for leftovers and the cabinets for quick items she could skid out onto the table to cobble up a dinner for my stepbrothers and me.

That might sound like a lesser meal plan, but I always loved silly smorgasbord. I loved the name. And I loved the assortment of tastes and surprises. Some of my favorite dinners were silly smorgasbord.

So for this installment of Hippie Squared I raided the pages of my journal and plated some recent rough draft riffs on a smorgasbord of topics. By way of preparation, I marinated a couple in their own juices, then set them to simmer at a slow rolling boil. (Say that three times fast.) I set one on the windowsill to cool. I trimmed the crust off one. Added a dash of hot sauce here, a sprinkle of cheese over there. Had fun makin’ it. Hope you enjoy it.

Let’s riff on gay marriage for a minute:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” and on into the inalienable rights part—that’s basically the Mission Statement for our country. It’s not in the Constitution. It’s from the Declaration of Independence. Which means there’s debate about whether it even carries the force of law. But it carries a heaping freight of moral force, doesn’t it?

And in a way it’s a challenge issued to history by Tom Jefferson, John Adams and Ben Franklin—the committee who wrote it—and all the other guys who signed it—that has resounded down the decades and around the world and back.

All the ways we’ve fallen short of that challenge. All the ways those men fell short of that challenge—most of them slave-owners. Still, they threw those words down on paper like throwing down a gauntlet to the future. I feel like they deliberately challenged themselves and all of us to be better than we are. They challenged us to extend ourselves. And to fail ourselves. And to extend ourselves again.

And so through our history we’ve continued to extend our notion of who it is that we’ll endow with those “inalienable” rights to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” As a country, as a society, we’ve extended the embrace of our conception of who is worthy and fully human wider and wider: granting rights of the vote, citizenship, property, protections against discrimination, to slaves (freed, then effectively re-enslaved); women; black Americans again; gays and lesbians in various arenas, etc.

With the inevitable approach of gay marriage becoming universally legal in these United States, we are opening our collective embrace yet wider. This is the promise of our Mission Statement finding new fulfillment. This is us rising to the challenge that we issued ourselves in our founding document.

The small-minded and the pinched spirits will get rolled over yet again. Let’s open our arms and spirits wider; expand our collective lungs and draw the breath of freedom and equality deeper, right down into our diaphragm until it tickles the old belly button.

Let’s riff a little bit on poor and rich:

A group of us at a bar, talking politics, and a friend says, “I don’t begrudge them what they have,” about rich people. In the same conversation where he’s talking about the pensions of public workers being too high.

This is a common attitude. Acceptance, even admiration, for rich people and their worth, even a blithe attitude toward the ruthlessness with which some have acquired it; yet resentment or disdain for working class people who agitate for a modest and dignified living and retirement. The self-interest of the rich is somehow understandable, while the self-interest of the working class is offensive. Why?

I think part of it is that it’s easy to see a direct affect on our own wallets from public workers’ wages and pensions. We pay them through our taxes. It’s not so easy to see all the ways the rich have of vacuuming their mountains of money out of the economy so it’s not available to us. They leave it in overseas tax shelters; squirrel it in Swiss banks; invest it in third world factories; and use it to rig the game so that they get ever more and we get less. They finance campaigns of politicians who create their tax shelters and hold down the minimum wage, which holds down all wages. They finance astro turf campaigns against government regulation that will protect us and hurt their profits; and think tanks that write “model legislation” that their politicians pass to kill collective bargaining rights so unions disappear and take our pensions and paid healthcare and regular wage increases with them.

What is it, something like 97% of the economic recovery has gone to the rich, while most of us still struggle through our private hell of a recession? That ain’t because of public workers’ pensions, my friends. It’s always easier to get mad and take it out on the powerless than it is on the powerful. The powerful practice misdirection, and they hide their tracks. If cornered, they fight back.

Take a look at a few of these charts to help make the connections. Look particularly at the one called “Your Loss, Their Gain.” Think how much more money is removed from your grasp by the 1% than by working class people struggling to hold onto what they were promised, as it’s stripped from them bit by bit, in the name of misdirected resentment.

Here’s a little side dish on money to go with that:

Money is a measurement of perceived value. It’s nothing unless we all agree to pretend it means something. My sweat is worth X dollars and headache to my boss. He can get Y dollars for what I help him produce. It’s a game that only works because we all agree to play, by more or less the same rules—even though we often argue over the fine points, just like people argue about the rules of Monopoly. How much do you get in your family when you pass Go?

Oops. Bit into something spicy:

I don’t give a shit about political parties. Or all the political isms: capitalism, socialism, liberalism, conservatism. Let’s just ask: What kind of world do we want? And how do we make it that way?

Dessert tray, anyone?

Comic books are stories in strobe.

Empathy is emotional reverse-engineering.

Mottoes for my year: “Courage.” “Make Strides, Gain Ground.”

Idea for a comedy bit: A game called “Texas Hold-Em-Up-To-Ridicule.” I offer this for free to anyone inclined to make a sketch or a video or a comic strip or anything out of it. I only ask that you give me a nod and send me a link to the end product:

Tom Waits: “History puts a saint in every dream.”

A little espresso with that?

She’s so fucking into reality, she wants to shape it.

The NRA doesn’t represent gun owners. It represents gun makers. Most NRA members favor reasonable measures to prevent gun violence. But these measures would cost gun makers money. So the NRA opposes them.

featured image credit: kaibara87

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