Tag: Easter

“Who are the Foo Fighters?”

 

Picture of alt-rock band Foo Fighters
Photo by Raph_PH – https://www.flickr.com/photos/69880995@N04/37001596252/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62729260 No alterations.

I heard one college girl say to the other, as I was coming down the stairs from the other direction. I work at a university here in Atlanta. Hearing that made me feel kinda old, to be honest.

See, I’m an actual 90s kid. As in, one born in the 80s. I was — and still am — too young to appreciate Nirvana (though I admit to being in the minority of my cohort). I went to elementary and middle school through the 90s and attended high school and college in the early 2000s.

This was a time before Youtube. Before instant streaming. But I don’t wanna talk about that. I wanna talk about “Everything Sucks.” Everything Sucks is a new show on Netflix about a group of kids going to high school in the 90s. It is a perfect encapsulation of my adolescence. Love, lust, hate, joy, depression. Everything is there. Even — sort of — grunge. Here’s the thing a lotta folks don’t understand: Grunge was for Generation X. That’s why the aesthetic is all over the movies of Kevin Smith, the movies of the 90s.

How do you spot a 90s movie? All the long-haired dudes in flannel. But those were films for and about college-aged people in the 90s. People who went to elementary and middle school in the 80s. People who caught the first episodes of GI Joe and Transformers waaaaaaaaaaaay back when they first aired.

My generation’s childhood introduction to Batman came via Michael Keaton and the amazing Bruce Timm and Adam West, not reading The Dark Knight Returns.And that’s what the writers of Everything Sucks seem to understand so well. It wasn’t just about grunge. Grunge was on the periphery. It’s what our older brothers/cousins were into, while we listened to Tupac and Britney Spears and watched Clarissa explain it all. Though honestly Tupac was a bit before my time too. He passed in the mid-90s, somewhere around 5th grade.

Everything Sucks is set in the town of Boring, Oregon in the year 1996. A small American town. Racism is somewhat invisible here, much as I remember. But homophobia is still in its heyday. Matthew Shepard’s murder is still two years away. Columbine is three years away. The first season of the show has dealt with growing up in a single-parent home, the pain of suicide and divorce, and the isolation that comes from knowing you’re different from everybody else.

This movie focuses a lot on the so-called outsiders. The drama geeks — actor and tech — that I spent a lot of my high school time hanging around. (I always felt they were way too cool for me, though I was sort of one of them. More on that later.)

I see a lot of myself in two of the characters: McQuaid, the undiagnosed Aspie who can’t tell his crush is not actually interested in him, and Tyler, the eager, barely pubescent, chronic outsider who just wants to be accepted by the cool kids. Granted, Tyler’s a bit more demonstrative than I ever was around the opposite sex (though then again I did have this annoying habit of telling every pretty girl I knew that I thought she was pretty, as if that would somehow translate into a relationship?).

Everything Sucks!.png
Everything except this show…

Anyway, awkwardness aside, I just can’t stop gushing about this show. I found so much that was relatable. Long bus rides full of excitement. Longer bus rides when everyone was sick and tired of being around each other. CHURCH CAMP. The unapproachable hottie who is actually way more normal than you think.* The gay kid who gets called a d–e in the first episode.

Oh, did I forget to mention the casual homophobia? This show has very little of it, but it’s creeping in the background. It’s the dark undercurrent of the 90s. So many kids with feels they couldn’t express from fear. Shear fear of being mocked, teased, threatened, beaten. I witnessed some of this firsthand and heard about it secondhand from good friends who received death threats for being out while in college. For my part, I’m straight. My mother might be considered ahead of her time. She never let my brother and I use those words that got bandied about on the playground, in locker rooms, and just about everywhere else. You know the words. I censored one in the first paragraph.

Why am I harping on this? Because one of the main characters is discovering her identity as an LGBT person. She’s not sure what her label is but she knows what — and who — she likes. So far, only three other members of the cast know. One is an ex-boyfriend she dated only to head off the teasing she was getting. One is the girl she likes who reciprocates her feelings. One is the boy with a crush on the girl she likes (see what I mean about ALL THE FEELS?).

But her dad? He remains oblivious. He’s the principal. He seems like a nice guy. But I am still nervous to see how he will react when she comes out to him. In 1996. One year before Ellen comes out. Two years before Matthew Shephard. Three before Columbine. A little less than 20 years before the Supreme Court declares laws prohibiting gay marriage as being unconstitutional. Even in 2018, LGBT teens make up a disproportionate population of homeless, abused, and unemployed Americans.

Don’t get me wrong. This show has its share of drama, but it is hilarious. There are moments in every episode when I roared with laughter. When Tyler bemoans his supposed friendless status yet can’t tell the conservative Christian girl Leslie totally wants him. When Luke has to come up with and simultaneously defend his movie pitch to the drama club on the fly. Banana slug.

Everything Sucks!.png
This freakin’ show…

But despite all the humor, IT’s always there. In the background. Lurking in the shadows. The unspoken threat. That love which dare not speak its name.

Oh yeah. Remember when I said I always thought the drama kids were way too cool for me? Well, my main reason for that is there were these guys in the drama club/classes who were always surrounded by beautiful girls. They were hilarious, always cracking jokes. I assumed they were the most popular kids at school. But there was one thing I always thought was a little odd. They all had the same accent. Not a Chicago or Savannah or New York accent, no. I’m talking about a more Nathan Lane way of speaking.

Were they gay? I don’t know. As a rule, I’ve never gone around asking people if they’re gay. Even when my friends hang up calendars filled with half-naked firemen, I make no assumptions unless they tell me directly. But that’s not the point. The point is I never once saw a gay couple at my high school or in college or even on television (though LGBT couples were first starting to get representation in mainstream media around the mid-90s). Why not? Were they closeted? Were they ashamed?

Were they afraid?

As a practicing Catholic, I’m not quite liberal enough to be a full ally to the LGBT movement. Good example: I’ve been leaving off the “Q” whenever I’ve used that acronym. But I voted against the amendment to the Georgia constitution officially defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. I just couldn’t abide that. I still can’t. There are some things society and the government just isn’t allowed to do. Telling folks who they can marry is one of them.

But this is the 90s. When just saying something like this would get you called “gay,” which was a social death sentence. When people thought every gay person had AIDS. When people thought gays were going around recruiting children into their “alternative lifestyle.”

This is a personal issue for me. I have LGBT friends and family. I don’t agree with everything they believe. I don’t support everything they do.But I will always fight for them. For their right to exist as free and independent members of an accepting society built around love and justice.

Anyway, we’ve gotten way off track, and I’ve yet to address the question burning in the hearts and minds of my younger readers. These are the Foo Fighters:

Happy Easter, kids.

*Yes, normal is a real thing. I’ll explain what I mean in next week’s post, probably.

A Good Friday

So, I was out shopping this evening, and I decided to stop at J. Buffalo Wings for some fried fish and chips. It’s Good Friday, so no meat today. As a practicing Catholic, I’m also supposed to fast. Fasting in the U.S. today means having one full meal and two smaller meals which can’t add up to a full meal. Of course, for me, that usually means having just one slice of pizza with my soda and cookies and free refill on soda/chips and whatnot.

In short, I’m a terrible…faster? Is that the word? I dunno, whatever. I suck at fasting.

So, I’m feeling bad for myself as I walk from the Kroger up to the Walgreens. I start to think, “Hey, maybe I’ll watch Passion of the Christ tonight! That’s what other Christians watch to make themselves feel holier.”

Then I think, “Nah, I’ll listen to Dark Side of the Moon, instead. I’m pretty sure Roger Waters was moved by the Spirit when composing those tunes.”

So, I’m listening to Breathe, and I get to the point where the rabbit has to dig his hole, catch the sun. And of course, you know what happens when his work is done. Time to dig another one.

And that got me thinking. We work so much. We are so busy. Not just with trying to continue our existence on this globe and striving toward goals of love, art, and fortune, but also with trying to improve ourselves and our families and friends.

But in the end, there’s always another hole to dig.

And just then, as I crested the hill where Walgreens sits like a lonely outpost on the ramparts of reality, I saw this in front of me:

2015-04-03 19.59.09

And then I turned and saw this behind me:

2015-04-03 19.59.17

And I realized that, for all my pride and ambition, I will never create anything so beautiful as all that. If you’re a Christian like me, you may see in this a sign from the Creator, a reminder that, at the end of the day, we should rejoice in our failures, for they only confirm our need for a Redeemer.

Yes, I’m imperfect. Yes, I’m sinful. We all are. God knows it. We are called to perfection, yes, but we are not expected to reach it without God’s help. We are not God.

Even if you’re not Christian, you may come to much the same conclusion: That in the end, after all the human race has accomplished, all its been through, we’re still squatting in the dirt, moving pebbles around and calling them planets.

We’re just not that big a deal, folks. And that’s ok.

Anyway, as I finish up here, I’ll leave you with some more holy words from the last track of Pink Floyd’s greatest album ever:

See you on Sunday, kids.

Different People Are Different…And Also People

Because I have no intention of watching "Requiem for a Dream," loved "Black Swan," and may very well see "Noah" when it moves to TBS.
Because I have no intention of watching “Requiem for a Dream,” loved “Black Swan,” and may very well see “Noah” when it debuts on TBS.

LGBTQ (RSTUVWXYZ, seriously guys, get a better acronym) causes have been in the news a lot recently. And by news, I of course mean the two or three online mags I check out from time to time.

But aside from the gay marriage issue, which I’ve spoken about before, I’d like to talk today about the transgender community, a community which — as a straight, white, Christian man — I am in no way qualified to  talk about.

You might be surprised to hear this from someone who has no problem with the government legalizing homosexual marriage and no problem with mosques being built in or around NYC, but I’m actually fairly conservative.

As a practicing Catholic, I subscribe to a binary sex system, which dictates that there are two sexes built for each other. I can’t help but believe that a person so uncomfortable in their own flesh as to necessitate identifying entirely with the opposite sex is by definition mentally-imbalanced.

Of course, that’s only my opinion. I’ve only taken one college-level psychology class, and it was an audited course, which means I’ve taken zero college-level psychology classes. 

There’s a bit of a stigma attached to mental disease/disorder. As an autistic person, I can assure you there is nothing “wrong” or “broken” about anyone with mental illness. Bipolar disorder, ADD, OCD, and all the other anxiety-causing, hallucination-inducing what-have-you’s are no less shameful than the common cold or any physical handicap.

Likewise, there’s nothing to “cure” when it comes to certain forms of mental illness. Autism, Down Syndrome, and even bipolar disorder are not diseases in the sense that the only “cure” would be a complete rewiring and rebuilding of the patient’s brain.

If you “cured” me of my autism, I’d no longer be recognizable as “me.” That’s what happens when you mess too much with the brain. A scary thought, especially for folks like myself who believe in the existence of Spirit and the immaterial, immortal nature of the human soul.

That said, treatment is available and highly-desirable for most forms of mental illness. Some of us can’t function in any real sense without our medicine, and that’s ok. No one would be surprised that a paraplegic requires a wheelchair. No one should be shocked to discover that a man with paranoid schizophrenia requires a daily dose to keep the hallucinations down to a bare minimum.

But none of that really applies to transgender folks.

With what little research I’ve done into trans-related issues, I’ve discovered that the only reliable treatment for transgender folk is for them to go ahead and be the sex/gender they identify as being. Therapeutic attempts at helping them accept their birth-sex have met with mixed results, to say the least.

Of course, that’s assuming therapy is even an option. That’s assuming the person in question hasn’t already faced bullying on par with the Spanish Inquisition.

So what are we “normals” to do? How should we treat those who are different?

The answer should be obvious. 

The idea of loving one’s neighbor is not a new one, although it may be too difficult for some of us to conceive of loving someone far different from ourselves. Perhaps it would be easier for us to start with politeness.

First: What NOT To Do

1. Don’t ask someone about the condition of their genitals. Not a stranger, not someone you just met, not even your friends. Seriously, it’s rude.

2. Don’t beat someone to death because they had a penis when you thought they’d have a vagina. Beating people to death is wrong. Seriously, I shouldn’t have to tell you this. It’s wrong to rape. It’s wrong to murder. How do you not know this already? Are you from the moon?

3. Don’t stare at odd-looking folks. Every so often, I see certain folks on the train or at a grocery store. At first glance, I can’t tell if these folks are women dressed as men, transgender folks, men dressed as women, or some other category I can’t be bothered to look up at the moment because I got other stuff to do today, and I’m running behind as it is. What do I do when faced with these people?

I smile and continue about my day. I don’t stare. I don’t ask them personal questions. I treat them like everyone else I happen to run into, with love and respect. This is not that difficult. It’s what your mother taught you. It’s what the Church teaches. This should not be new. It is not a new concept.

What To Do

Here’s a list of ways to interact with transgender folks, other members of the LGBTQ community, members of minority ethnic groups, people with different hair color or skin tone or eye color than you, people with different religious affiliations, and people who hate everything.

1. Smile.

2. Nod.

3. Interact as you would with anyone else.

Seriously, that’s all. Show a basic level of human empathy and politeness to others. If a Different Person asks you for the time, pull out your watch or phone or alarm clock and tell them what time it is. If a Different Person asks you for a haircut, give them one and charge them the right rate. Unless you’re not a hair-stylist or barber, in which case, you are free to refuse service.

Seriously, why would you ask me for a haircut? I don’t even own one of those squeaky barbershop chairs.

Update: My stance on the gay marriage issue has since changed, slightly. While as a Christian, I cannot vote for it, as an American, I will not vote against it. The government has no right to forbid the marriage of two consenting adults. I call shenanigans on that. Shenanigans, all around.

Shenanigans.