If your editorial doesn't come in tonight (and I know you watched the
game... I just had the Java scoreboard from nba.com up while I wrote mine)
then you are the biggest, pudliest, cornball on this *planet*
--Chris Lott, May 31, 1998
It's deadline time again. Tom is supposed to have his editorial finished. In fact, he was supposed to have it finished a month ago when we first intended this issue to be up and running. I don't know why I'm referring to myself in the third person, unless it's out of shame for what Chris appropriately terms my pudliness. Yes, I watched the game (and nearly broke my couch in a thrashing fit of rage when Reggie Miller floored Scott Burrell with a round-house elbow and wasn't called; then I nearly went hoarse screaming at the Bulls to post up Longley on Smits with two minutes to go so they could either have the easy basket or draw the foul and get Smits out of the game--damned Bulls; seems like they listen to me less and less these days, but oh, thank you so much for winning--and admittedly it's foolish for me to tie my happiness to something so abstract as the success of a professional sports team representing a city in which I don't even live, but as I think I mentioned before, the Bulls and Michael Jordan, to me, stand for something far more than basketball--something like my own mortality, even). No I don't have an editorial written. As usual, I'm struggling to decide on a topic. Like, should I write about the recent spate of shooting massacres by teenagers, and how befuddled I am that even at this late date, with all the evidence glaring in our faces, we still, as a nation, aren't waking up to the fact that our society-wide practice of putting our own lives first and those of our spouses second and those of our children third (might as well mention the elderly, who at best seem to be coming in fourth), and that THAT is what is causing children, who haven't been loved, nurtured, and disciplined through the formative years of their lives, and who aren't being helped by our overworked and therefore impersonal public school system, and who usually don't have an extended family to fall back on for support, to imitate the degeneratively violent movies (anybody seen Ice-T's "Mean Guns?" Now there is a frickin' winner of a movie!) we avalanche on them from the tenderest age (ever notice how many couples seem to think nothing of taking toddlers to see R-rated flicks, unfazed by either the way their kids scream and ruin everybody else's $8 experience or by the way their kids are being surround-sound digital audio-exposed to profanity, sex, and violence at every lull in their screams?), thereby taking semi-automatic weapons to school and blasting away at classmates with whom they have no particular beef. Oh, but don't be fooled by the hype, they say; teen violence is on the decline. There are fewer cases of teen violence now than in a long time. This little statistical truth, however, is marred by two interpretive truths. Just as a capitalist society so often evolves to a state of economic haves and havenots, with the gulf between them growing wider and wider, so has our society created a gulf between the children who today have it better than ever, and those who have it worse than ever. The other truth, of course, is that while the number of incidents may be down, their severity and media shock-value is certainly jumping through the roof. Ah, but I can't write an editorial on all this, because first of all I'd be sounding like a broken record (er, excuse me, a scratched cd) since I've said most of this before, and secondly I don't know if I have anything to say on the subject that isn't being said repeatedly on the net and on tv and on talk radio. Except to say that I don't think enough people are laying the responsibility for all these killings where it truly belongs: on poor parenting. I listen to people rave about the need for gun control. Maybe they're right about a need for some kind of gun control. But to blame what happened in Arkansas or Oregon or any of those other places on the availability of guns is stupid. To blame it on Ice-T movies or Magic Cards or anything else is stupid too. The blame has GOT to go on the parents and the selfish, compassionateless creatures they spawned. At this point, you're thinking to yourself, okay Dooley, I can see where you're going with this. The truth is you don't have a damned editorial, so once again you're going to try to pull one out of your ass by describing all the things you aren't going to write about. Next you'll bring up some other topic that generally pisses you off, like, say, road rage. There's a beauty of a topic, by the way. Before, when some selfish, compassionateless asshole lost his temper while driving because someone wasn't getting the hell out of his way fast enough, we had to describe the whole scene for the sake of clarity when relating it to someone. Now all we have to say is "road rage" and assume everyone knows what we mean. We mean exactly the same thing-- that someone was an asshole on the highway--but now we have a neat little pop-psychology-meets-mass-media term for it. Sometimes I think that it would be a good idea if we resisted these little labels as much as possible. In education, we have a label for just about every reason why a kid might not be successful in school. Who knows, maybe it's an improvement over the old labels, where teachers might've been content to say a kid was "lazy" or a "brat." Sometimes, though, it seems like our quest for these labels hasn't gotten us any further toward the goal of actually teaching kids better, but that we've now given them all kinds of validations for why they AREN'T learning. Is road rage going to be like this? "Yes, your honor, my client did run the old lady off the road and beat her window in with a baseball bat, but as you can see from this medical report, he suffers from an acute case of road rage. . . " Well, then, your client is an asshole, and has no business being on the road. Incidentally, what is up with these people and their road rage anyway? Are they feeling so impotent in their lives that they feel the need to compensate by driving like they own the road? Is their car an extension of their ego, for crying out loud? Here in Tucson, the overwhelming majority of drivers will not let you switch lanes in front of them without a fight. If you need to get over to make a turn, and you put on your blinker, the cars behind you will speed up to cut you off. It's safer just to cut in front of them without using your blinker, because then they won't have time to react. What is this? A mild form of road rage? Saying "I know you may need to be in my lane, but I refuse to allow anyone to supplant me in my position. I'm not at the head of the pack, but I'll be damned if I'll be behind YOU." Whatever, you freaks. I guess it's true, though, that I don't really have a topic to write about here. I'm rambling, and there's no point in stopping now. Graduations. It's that time of year. A few weeks ago, I spoke at one. Me, the commencement speaker. It was one of the most humbling things I've ever done. I took it as a high honor and found it to be incredibly difficult. If I were to zero in on what made it so difficult, it's that with graduation speeches, I think you have an obligation to say something new, but you also have an obligation to say all the things that are supposed to be said in a graduation speech. Finding a way to balance those two items is no picnic. The graduation I spoke at was in Nenana, Alaska. There were seven seniors receiving their diplomas. Two days later, I was back in Tucson attending the Sabino graduation, where I currently teach. This time, the ceremony included over four hundred seniors, led by thirteen co-valedictorians, who each gave a short speech. I was equipped with a safety pin and told to decommission any inflated objects that came my way. I kept trying to imagine one of the seven graduates in Nenana trying to inflate a beach ball between their knees in front of friends and family on the biggest day of their lives thus far. The image wasn't working. Back in Tucson, though. . . sure enough, before the thirteen Sabino co-valedictorians had finished, three beach balls had been safety-pinned by other members of my "fun-police" team. I counted myself lucky that no beach balls had come my way. On the one hand, I was thinking it seemed like a typically American (that is to say shallow and unappreciative) gesture to unleash a beach ball during your graduation, and on the other hand, I was thinking that if they wanted to do so, why the hell was I going to try to stop them? It all turned out okay though. Which leads me to my own graduation, which took place ten years ago. The reunion is next month. I'll probably make it back up to Alaska to attend. I'm nervous about it, to be sure. We've had one decade to live up to the expectations and hopes with which we launched ourselves back then. Have we? I haven't. Yesterday, I spotted a nice little house for sale on a quiet street not far from my apartment complex. I wrote down the realty number and called them this morning. That nice little house, which turned out to be not so little (3 bed, 2 bath, 2100 square feet), cost $269,000. This is three times what I could afford if I really stretched myself. It was one of those sobering moments, when I realized once again where I stood in the economic scope of things. I'm almost thirty years old. Unmarried. No kids. No house. No savings, and a pile of debt. A house I was only mildly interested in turns out to cost over three times what I can afford. Compound all this with the fact that I drive a Subaru station wagon. I still haven't overcome my tendency to procrastinate (as my co-editor, Chris, will vehemently attest--a while ago he sent me a message titled "you suck" to follow up the one I quoted at the top of this editorial), binge on pastries, or dwell on the negatives too much. The only saving grace right now, I suppose, is that there aren't any pastries in the house. But, you know, there are always positives. I know I'm lucky to be alive and healthy and all that stuff that people point out as things for which you should be grateful. And I AM grateful. Recently, a somewhat distant relative of mine fell off a roof. Now he's paralyzed from the hips down. He is twenty-one years old. Things can change in a hurry. A lady here in Tucson started shooting people at random a couple weeks ago. She started at the post office. Her dad drove her from shooting to shooting. If I had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, she might've shot me. I might be a victim of road rage tomorrow, or a whacked-out student might bring an AK-47 to school. There are so many ways to die, to get sick, to lose everything. Mortality may await us all, but Michael and the Bulls staved it off for one more week tonight, and I've finished another editorial. If you're still reading these words, I can only congratulate you on making it this far, thank you for your time, and urge you to check out the rest of this issue. Chris has written his usual brilliant editorial, and the pieces we feature this month will speak for themselves. Be sure to check out our new forum, sign in on the guestbook (it's working now!), and if you're new to the magazine, I definitely recommend a visit to the archives to see how we've evolved over the last year and a half. There are some truly awesome gems of poetry and fiction to be found there. Thanks again, and peace be to you.
May 31, 1998