Saturday, April 22, 2017

...And I Was Made Grateful

Gratitude comes in many forms. I spent a lifetime assuming that I knew where and how it would arrive. That I knew what it would look like. But clearly, I was wrong.

Long-time readers of this blog are well aware of my struggle to reclaim my pre-Great Recession life, and of my inability to do so. Left to labor in menial, dead end jobs with few—if any—benefits, I ranted and raved about the stupidity and the greed and the utter lack of morality in corporate America.

I shared my personal experiences; the personality profiles and the group interviews and the don't-hire-the-unemployed ethos. The thoughtless and short-sighted cost-cutting and the knee-jerk lip service to the words customer service, which lies at the heart of virtually every one of their two-faced marketing campaigns.

Likewise the egocentric displays of power, mindless conformity and raging hypocrisy.

But none of that exorcised the gnawing, insistent feeling that I was a failure. None of it repaired my broken self-esteem. Not even the knowledge that there were hundreds of thousands of Americans just like me whose lives had been put on hold.

I was conditioned to believe that as a man, I was something less than one if I did not succeed in a system that I now understand considered me an expense. A speed bump on the road to unfettered wealth creation.That I was hired to be fired.

It humiliates me to admit it but yes, I ached.

That is, until I heard U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions speak.

I don't think the former senator from Alabama could recall the thirteen original colonies, much less explain the Theory of Relativity. He doesn't know the difference between Budapest and Bucharest, or the significance of the Magna Carta.

What Jeff Sessions knows how to do is acquire power and please the people who can give it to him—as instinctively as my cat knew the sound of me opening a tin of cat food meant she was going to eat.

This walking mediocrity is a luminous example of the sea-level intelligence which infests the legislative branch of our federal government.

One has only to listen to Session's surprise at a federal judge's decision to hear the abundant witlessness and arrogance and prejudice inborn in this man (supposedly expert in the checks and balances within the government that has so generously supported him for the past two decades) to realize what a shithead he is.

And he is the Attorney General of the United States of America.

Just as the NBA doesn't necessarily possess the world's best basketball players (it possesses the best who remained felony-free while simultaneously gleaning a scholarship to a school with a prominent basketball program), our government doesn't necessarily feature the best and brightest minds of our times.

It features the best and brightest minds of those eager and adept at lapping at the food dish set out by the wealthy and the powerful.

Mr. Sessions, thank you. Thanks to you and your generous display of ignorance, I now understand in a way I never quite did before the complete lack of a relationship between ability and success.

I am, if I haven't made it clear, eternally grateful.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

What to Wear

I don't read the Sunday newspaper—I scour it. I scour it like those guys in hazmat suits who neutralize EPA superfund sites.

That's how I end up reading about condo associations and grilled pork served with mint leaves and fig compote and South American political scandals from the 1940s. It's also how I end up reading a woman's complaints about how men dress at the gym.

The aggrieved party wrote a columnist because she is disturbed by the sight of men in tight-fitting clothing at the gym. Shorts in particular. Even worse, the sommelier who heads this whine cellar goes on to empathize with the complainant.

Sigh. Eye rolls, anyone?

I've heard this argument before. And if I hear another woman complain about guys in Speedos (or clingy gym attire) I'm going to burst. And here's why:

Everyday I see size 18 women waddling around in size 5 clothes. I see cellulite jiggling underneath tissue-thin yoga pants. Guts hanging out from midriff tops. XL rear ends not quite contained by XS string bikinis.

And that's just the beginning.

But that's not indecent exposure. Nope. That's empowerment. Women being strong. Liberated. Casting off the shackles of male expectations of beauty.

If you say so.

I call it U-G-L-Y. And I really, really don't want to see it.

But saying so makes me a seething, hateful misogynist. Which only fuels my argument that there's a raging double-standard at work here.

We live in an age of unfettered ego. “What do you mean I don't look like Kerry Washington? I rock these, baby!” “You can actually tell the difference between Vin Diesel and me? I'm gonna run you over, you punk-ass bitch!”

All of us have the bodies of Greek gods and goddesses. Check.

And speaking of unfettered egos, I should add that I wish more people were just like me.

You see, not so long ago, I stood 6' 3” and weighed 190 pounds. I had a thirty-four inch waist. I played basketball without a shirt, and did my power walking in shorts that did not conform to the prevailing skater/hip hop/just-released-felon aesthetic.

I.E., they did not hang down to my shins.

But then I gained thirty pounds.

As a result, I don't walk around the house, much less public spaces, without a shirt. You feel me? I am embarrassed. I am not proud. I am—as we like to spout on social media—humbled.

Yes, the old self-esteem has taken a hit. But even after cataract surgery, I fail to see how going out in a too-tight t-shirt is going to empower me.

Granted, I am not a woman. But even within the relaxed appearance standards women typically hold men to, I am fat. I am a middle-aged, pear-shaped, dad-bodied cliché. It's not self-loathing. It's not culturally-induced shaming. It's just a realistic look in the mirror.

I don't like it, and I doubt you would, either. So, in a gesture of magnanimity to my fellow man, I cover it up.

And it doesn't make you or me a hater or sexist to wish that all the ball-sack baring, stretch-mark sharing men and women around us would do the same.

Two sexes, one standard.

We can do this.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Empowering the Powerful, Enriching the Wealthy (a.k.a. The Same Old Thing)

In our headlong rush to hand over every last particle of our collective rights as individuals to corporate America comes the news that our so-called elected representation is in the process of approving a measure that would give employers access to their employee's DNA, conceivably hiring, firing and promoting based on the projected health care costs an employee (or one of their family members) might incur.

If you think this is a good idea, I have a cell phone app that allows you to amend and repeal the laws of physics that I will sell to you for just one-hundred thousand U.S. dollars.

Like so much of their benignly-titled legislation, the Republican-sponsored Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act appears concerned and downright caring on the surface, yet is the most-invasive and potentially exclusionary piece of legislation to come down the pike since the Patriot Act.

Think of it. Your employer will offer you a break on your health care insurance if you submit your DNA (and again, that of your spouse and children) for review. If it even needs to be said, there are no restrictions—none whatsoever—on what your employer can do with this information.

This would be a good time to remember that At Will employment statutes are still very much in effect.

You, the educated and worldly reader of The Square Peg, see where this is headed, right?

Jon: “You know I love Madison's work, Melissa. But her profile troubles me. There's a marker that indicates a susceptibility to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and I'm wondering if going forward, she's the best choice for Communications Director.

IBS is notoriously uncomfortable, and the thought of it—or its side effects—creeping into her work is distressing. Imagine our communication tainted by a spastic colon. Or constricted by constipation. Or worse, let to flow—unchecked—by diarrhea.

The damage to our carefully-crafted brand could be irreparable, Melissa.

It is my belief that we need to make Madison available to the industry ASAP. While Abby's work doesn't possess the articulate, fine edge that Madison's does, her DNA profile is rock-solid and doesn't point to anything more severe than an occasional cold."

Melissa: "Jon, I have to agree. I'll be sad to see Madison go—she's a lovely girl and has brought so much to this office—but the potential savings on healthcare costs and down time are just too big to ignore.

I think this is the right decision, and one that resonates with our core values. Have Abby see me in five and while she's here, have security escort Madison out. Thanks so much for your input.”

Of course, Republicans and the corporate hacks who who back this deny that any such agenda exists. The Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act wants only to lower the cost and speed the delivery of high-quality health care to employees.

Awww. Isn't that touching? 

But having watched the bloodletting done in the name of efficiency and shareholder value, I have no doubt this is our future should H.R. 1313 be enacted.

Just as Americans win a hard-fought battle for health insurance that cannot bar us for pre-existing conditions, Republicans want to transfer that ability to our employers.

Thank you. Thank you so very much.

Again, we get the government we deserve. If you're okay with this, remain silent.

If you're not, pick up your phone and start texting your representation now. 

It's important.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Random Thoughts, Vol. 9

America is a country rich in authority and poor in leadership.

Comedy is no joke. When do we start presenting the 'Best Comedy' Oscar?

Donald Trump has learned that if he throws a stick, we will chase it. What is our so-called president doing while we obediently retrieve it?

If Scott Pruitt is going to head the EPA, can I head the NRA?

Tom Waits for no man.

Two of the states with the highest incidence of opioid abuse (West Virginia and Ohio) were also two of the states to lean most-decisively for Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential Election. Coincidence?

I fully expect things will clear up in 2020.

I've always wanted to ask a coach of professional athletes “How do you get 23 year-old guys making eight-million dollars a year to do what you want them to?”

If memory serves, do I need to tip? 

Some of us see the cheese and some of us see the holes. Together, we form an accurate and complete picture of Swiss cheese.