Most of my friends know me as a social liberal. Indeed, I can’t comprehend how the “other side” adopts its positions on social issues. We had to have a big debate (and war) about slavery, an equal rights issue. We had to have one about suffrage, another equal rights issue. Then we had to go to the mat over rights for descendants of slaves. And now we need to do it again over same-sex marriage? Can’t we apply Occam’s Razor and grant equal rights to everyone, without requiring each oppressed social group to fight a separate battle?
Maryland just made same-sex marriages legal, with 52% of the vote in favor. On one hand that’s great news. On the other hand, isn’t it a bit scary to think that 48% of the state’s voters declared, with their ballots, that they should have more rights than other people? It’s incomprehensible to me.
But so is spending more money than you have, which brings me to the fiscal cliff deal.
I understand why the Republicans in the House were so frustrated last week. The debt ceiling is too high already. We need to cut spending. Obama’s counterargument is that we need to raise the debt ceiling in order to pay bills to which we are already committed. Fair enough, but then let’s stop committing to expenses that, in order to cover them, we have to raise the debt ceiling.
You wouldn’t run your household that way. If you made $50,000 a year you wouldn’t spend $88,000 and thus add $38,000 to a credit card debt that was already $332,000. Yet that’s what Washington is doing. You can’t borrow your way out of debt. The question, of course, is where to tighten the belt.
The U.S. spends more on its military than it does on Medicare or Social Security. Or anything else. Take at look at these maps. I’m not going to bother trying to count the number of domestic military bases. But what I really want you to look at is the number of foreign countries in which we have military bases: 26. And wherever we are not, we can get to, by air or by sea. We occupy the world.
During WWII the Japanese introduced a new carrier-based fighter, the Mitsubishi A6M, which became known as the “Zero.” Its long-range capability and superior maneuverability earned it a 12-1 kill ratio during its first year of combat. We quickly responded with the Grumman F6F Hellcat, which became known as the “Zero Killer.” We kept up with the Joneses. We had to: Japan, an ally of Germany, was bent on conquering us. In the decades that followed we sustained our commitment to military research and testing. And spending. During the Cold War we strove to become the mightiest country on the planet.
We succeeded. We are so ahead of the Joneses, the disparity is staggering.
Shelby Foote argued the North won the Civil War with one arm, the other being used to conduct separate business, for example the Indian wars. I argue we won Desert Storm with one hand, defeating a powerful country, halfway around the world, in just 100 days, utilizing only a fraction of our resources. The disparity is staggering.
Maybe, just maybe, we can forego a new supersonic fighter jet, or the toppling of another regime, to make sure Americans who contribute to Social Security will be able to draw from it when they retire?
I asked my German neighbor, Eleanor, what she thought about all this, and her answer was interesting: “Thanks to the American presence, European countries maintain militaries that are skeletons of what they would otherwise be. The Americans keep the peace, so we don’t have to. Thank you! That’s how we afford universal health care.”
“And what about my Social Security, my retirement, my lifestyle?”
She gave me one of her stop-acting-like-a-turnip looks and said, “Write better novels, Stefan. Over that, you have control. Over the Next-Generation Bomber, you have none.”
The game company Zynga shut down Petville on Facebook. My pet Snyrgydd, who I adopted in order to play along with my daughter, died 1 January:
In lieu of flowers, the family requests you make a donation in Snyrgydd’s name to your local animal shelter.
Hugh Hefner got married again, to a gerl 60 years his junior. I don’t really have anything to say about that, except to observe that in order to follow his footsteps I’d have to wait six more years just for my own personal bimbo to enter the world. Her parents are probably still in high school.
Wendy sent me a bag of Taco-Flavored Doritos for Christmas. I ate them. It was a transcendental experience.
Finally, millions of Twitter followers were stunned when I backed away from the popular social media platform, and I think it’s only fair that I provide an explanation.
I know what you’re saying: I have only 1500 or so followers, how can millions be stunned? I don’t know, I just know that saying “1500 people were stunned” doesn’t have the same impact. To tell the truth, I think only about 15 of the 1500 akshully knew me.
Twitter wasn’t for me. I felt like a wallflower. I’ve backed away from Facebook too, from a cocktail party at which I was running out of things to say. Although Blogger is dead, it’s home. I’m going to sit at the bar like Lola at the Copacabana, faded feathers in my hair, and hope someone buys me a drink. I brought my micropoetry over from Twitter.
Perhaps, on the other hand, leaving Twitter is a mistake. Perhaps the trend to ever-shorter posts, to ever-smaller drams of contact and communion, serves the evolution of social media. Perhaps Blogger is merely a victim of natural selection, and Twitter is the result of speciation, a creature borne of the happy tryst between mutation and adaptation, the kind of which gave rise to the Octopus, the Proboscis Monkey, and the Tea Party. Perhaps writing “are” as “r” and “you” as “u” and “to” as “2” represent literary progress, the ascension to a higher plateau of compositional purity and elegance.
Parrish the thought!