Monday, November 29, 2010

Kill the Socialists

Thanksgiving is such an ironic American holiday. I hope you enjoyed yours long enough to manage to forget what really happened when we settled here. On another note:

The fear of socialism runs deep in our American veins. Like many of my patriotic kinsmen, I’d absorbed the knowledge of the evils of socialism far before I even knew what socialism really was.


So what is it? And why is it so criminal? How does it compare to other political systems? And why must we use cows to explain all of this nonsense?

Very briefly, then:

Democrat: Your cow is yours, but a portion of the milk will be given to feed others who might not have cows but contribute to society in other ways.

Republican: Your cow is yours. The milk is yours. Period.

Socialist: Everyone owns all cows and the milk will be split equally.

Communist: Everyone owns all cows and the milk will be split according to need.

Tea Party: Your cow is a dog except on Sundays when it’s a rooster. Milk is for bathing and I can see Alaska from my house.

Each system has its problems, and just like every other Riff Raff I’ve my own opinions on which works the best. But that’s not under scrutiny just at this time. We’re talking about the fear of socialism, aren’t we?

The library is socialist. Think about it. We all pay taxes so we all can use the library.  Despite the fact that most socialists hate police, the system by which they exist is socialist. The same goes for fire fighters, the majority of roads, and other things that your taxes pay for.

Now I’m not a Socialism expert or anything, but that doesn’t sound too bad. I mean what if we all had access to [good] healthcare and [good] higher education the same way we have access to the library? CoughFranceCough.

Even a lot of liberal organizers who I worked with during the National Equality March didn’t like organized Socialist groups. There was fear of takeover and ulterior motives and still I don’t see what’s so wrong about it. Truly. Socialism seems to work as well and as poorly as the other two ridiculous parties we adhere to, so why not take it seriously as an option? Or why not take more elements of socialism seriously as an option? Why kill the socialists?

You’ll find no answers here. I’m just a confused Everyman with opinions of my own.

All I know is that if we all had access to good healthcare and good education – IT WOULD FIX EVERYTHING.

Food Comaly Yours,

Monday, November 15, 2010

Your Mother Brainwashed You

Dear Rank and File Riff Raff,

A fond memory of my mother comes from her weapon of choice: The Spoon. It's brilliant, of course. So dramatic. I can see now what it looks like. It's a large kitchen spoon. Made out of wood. Or maybe plastic. I think I remember that it had holes in it. Like a strainer? It's possible I never saw it at all. I certainly was never actually hit with a kitchen spoon as a child. Or maybe I was. I can't remember.

Family: We all have one. The nuclear structure is so inherent in our society that even if you don't know your biological parents, it still dictates your life. Father. Mother. Sister. Brother. Son. Daughter. We judge ourselves by it. We define ourselves by it. It is, in many ways, the most important part of who we are, of where we've come from, and of who we want to be. It is discipline, it is legacy, it is ownership, it is honor, and it is faith. Father. Mother. Sister. Brother. Son. Daughter.

It didn't always used to be this way.

We used to travel around in packs when society had different rules and guidelines. There were those that were designated hunters, designated birthers, designated spiritual leaders, and so on. We couldn't all have children, because we couldn't feed them and we couldn't travel with all of them. Their definitions were different. Our definitions were different. But this was family

It went on like this for a many many generations. And then, over a long period of time, a massive shift in human evolution occurred. 

Over time we began to settle on farms. Children were the key to the change because we needed more hands to work on the farm and slowly the birth of the modern day family had come to be. Mother. Father. Sister. Brother. Son. Daughter. We began to own and fight over land. Organized religion grew and played it's massive part in human history and shaping the family based on the needs of current power struggles.

And I've heard it predicted that we are again in the midst of the next big human evolutionary shift.

We're overpopulated, running out of resources, and destroying our planet. We no longer need as many children and the struggle for power now lies in technology, so the church is losing it's power to define family. Family is more different today that it was only 50 years ago. The battle for marriage equality aside, LGBTQ people are publicly taking up family with each other.  Divorce is commonplace.  The definition of family is changing.

So what, then, does that say about us? If this family structure is actually just a product of social change and not biological organizing,  what else is just something we've been taught and follow like sheep (or humans, it seems)? Take monogamy, for example. We've not always been destined for one mate and yet it drives the way we spend the majority of our life. Have we been made to feel guilty for wanting anything other than monogamy? And have we been judging ourselves by false standards? What about legacy, discipline, ownership, honor, and faith? And what do we really want? What do we want as animals?

But here we are, in the middle of this organization of our species, and I must say, I am thankful for this current definition of family.

As a gay Rank and File Riff Raff, I am lucky that today we are able to loosen the terms of a traditional nuclear family and I can have a family of my own. You see, Riff Raff, even if you wonder about the structure in which you've been organized, you are still wholly justified to want that organization. I do not feel guilt in that desire to have a family because no matter how we are brainwashed to think, we'll always be brainwashed. We'll always be taught how to think. And at least from a very biased point of view, I can't wait to have a family. I can't wait to teach my children. I can't wait to have a husband and a garden and dinner parties with matching wine glasses.

I asked my mom and it turns out that "The Spoon" never even existed. It was an idea that I was organized to believe and I was taught to react a certain way when I heard the word. My mother brainwashed me.

With that, I'll leave you with these words that I put together. They rhyme:

But when he died, that narcissist,
six feet under, get the gist?
He looked back on his life and thought,
"Had I been that asleep?
Did I abide and hide inside,
desires dark and deep?"
It's hard to know and recognize,
that we are human sheep.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Working 9 to 5

Dolly Parton sure has big tits.

I was born on American soil and therefore I am American. Because I am American I have been given the promise of suburban freedom, haircuts ala Fantastic Sams, living the American Dream. Unfortunately, the American Dream is just a bunch of antiquated bullshit that today forces Americans to organize ourselves in cubicles, familiarize ourselves with rush hour, and accept the disgusting corporate oppression that we buy into everyday. The promise of possibility and freedom, really means the Fat Cats will force you to take a 9-5 (which is actually a 9-7) just so that you can afford, drumroll please... health insurance. That's how they keep us in this 9-5 cage. We are forced to take jobs that will literally let us live. "What a way to make a living."

 James Truslow Adams in 1931 said that "life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement" regardless of social class or circumstances of birth. (Library of Congress. American Memory. "What is the American Dream?".)

How often it is, Riff Raff, that we forget we are animals. We are not meant to fester in office chairs and stare through florescent lights at computer screens, taking cigarette breaks to breathe, with caffeine headaches and crooked spines. Between our 12 sick days a year and 8 vacation days, those big Parton titties remind us that we are "barely getting by". We feel trapped by our guilt that we should want something more, because it's how we've learned to organize ourselves and it is, after all, the American Dream. This is the freedom we are so proud of, the clock to which we're a disposable cog.

I don't mean to sound so Anti-American. I vote. I participate in the process wherein I live. I just wish, Riff Raff, that we could all look at it with a different perspective. I wish we could zoom out and see the rat race of greed that has us spinning in our wheels.

Imagine if we had 2 hour breaks in the middle of the day. Imagine if we had months of paid vacation. Imagine if we had healthcare that was good and accessible to every citizen. Imagine if everyone had the opportunity for an education. I know it sounds like fantasy. But it's not... It's France.

Thanks for reading this. Now get back to your spreadsheet before your supervisor sees you!

With love,

Friday, November 5, 2010

The National Equality March

It had to be at least 2am the morning of the National Equality March. I was scheduled to be at the stage to manage set-up in 2 hours. I hadn't slept. I hadn't written my speech. I hadn't this. I hadn't that. I hadn't. I hadn't. I hadn't.

That's when I had a panic attack.

At the time, I was so buried in the details of the culmination of 4 months of conference calls and tension and laughter and growth, that I had no moment to reflect upon what we were all about to accomplish. Cliche be damned, I was barefoot and freezing and pulling out my hair as one of my dearest Riff Raffs tried to comfort me or at least get me to calm down and go inside.

How did this all happen? What was it all for? What was to come? How much can we, the people, the Riff Raff, the organized, the underdog actually change? How oppressed are we truly? What are movements? What is revolution? What is action?

What does it mean to be a leader? Am I a leader? How much of all of this is my inflated ego? Have I been selfless? Have I been malicious? What have I done wrong or right and who will be the judge? The blogs? God? Why am I so cold? I should put on some shoes. I should go inside. I just won't sleep tonight. I'll be fine. Here I Am. Here I Am. Here I Am.

That's when I went inside, sat in the lobby with a napkin and pencil. And wrote my introduction for Cleve Jones:

People are obssessed with the number. How many people showed up? Well the reality is, is that no one can ever really tell. Time Magazine and the Advocate say 200,000. That sounds about right to me. But whether we say that or quarter of a million or 100,000 - does it change the effectiveness of what was created?

This march did many things for many people. For me, it transformed my identity. I know that I am now the Riff Raff. I am the Rank and File. And for that, I am proud.

Will that march change the way we organize ourselves in the future? Will that march change our society? What chain of events did it start? What domino did it push down? Can one person change the world? How about 100 people? How about 200,000? Or whatever that very-important-number is? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?

Bis Morgan,

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Free Advice #1

This, herein, constitutes as my first advice column. Really, Riff Raff? Who am I to give advice?  If free advice is worth what you pay for, I suggest giving me money.

A particular Rank and File pen-named "Confused in the Capital" writes -

Dear Everyman:

I'm so confused. 

I woke up this morning and found myself in Washington, DC.  Now how on Earth did I end up here?  Didn't I fall asleep in another major metropolitan area on the East Coast?  Why yes, I am almost certain that I did.  So why wasn't I sleeping in a rent-controlled, run-down, three-story walk-up apartment - that I share with my friend and two cats - in Astoria, Queens?  Maybe it was just one of those really, really intense dreams...

After shrugging off the disorientation as the after-effect of a nighttime cocktail of Vicodin and anti-convulsants, I got ready for work.  But where did I work?  Fifteen minutes later, I turned the key in the front door of an office in downtown Washington, very close to The White House.  So close, in fact, that three different groups of tourists all asked me for directions.  "It's right around that corner, to the right, one block down."  "Just take the next right, and walk one block straight there."  "Turn right, it's a block away."

It took me, I'd say, about thirty minutes to figure out what I did for a living.  Apparently, I raise money for this organization and have worked at this for nearly a full year. "It's all news to me" soon became my mantra for the next eight hours (less my hour for lunch).  Lunch seemed strange to me as well.  After all, I did eat a grilled cheese sandwich and a giant pickle at a place called "Potbelly", having washed it down with a cookies-n-cream milkshake.  Promptly at six o'clock I packed up my stuff and headed back "home" to the house I woke up in this morning.  The house I am in right now.

So here I sit, in a house in Washington when I get the distinct feeling that I should be in a crummy apartment in New York.  I'm some sort of fund-raiser, some kind of "advocate", a sort of "activist", and what some might call a "community organizer" - just like the President?  Getting people behind an idea, and moreover, to donate of their money, energy, and time seems to be my lot in life.  Did I wake up this morning expecting to step out of my front door in Queens, make the long Subway ride downtown into Manhattan, and enter the chic gallery in SoHo where I work as a curator?  Well yes, I did. 

I get the feeling you feel the same way when you wake up in the morning, Everyman.  Can you help? 

Confused in the Capital


Dear Confused,

I once stopped breathing in the middle of the night. I woke up gasping for breath and fell to the floor. I had no idea where I was and panic set in immediately. When it all settled and I caught my breath and remembered it all again I had to calm myself for a moment. I repeated, "Here You Are" and stroked my chest until I was ready to go back to sleep.

I laid there, regaining control and as it set in, I wondered if I was okay with this reality. What else had I been dreaming about? Where are my dreams telling me to go? And then I slept again. With no answer.

I suggest upping your Vicodin dosage.

With warm regards,

Europe and America

You must understand, Riff Raff.

Everyone kept telling me to "do it while your young", so I bought a round trip ticket to London. Three months with no plan, no watch, and no cell phone. I left right after I'd founded Postcards to the President, and only a few months after Proposition 8 had passed.

After a few weeks visiting an old Rank and File Riff Raff in Oxford, I went to Italy. I took the time to journal almost daily and slept where I could: on couches, on trains, in airports, in hostels, and in a few very fancy hotels. I met people and wrote and saw and ate and gained [weight and] an unbelievable perspective that now, almost 2 years later I wonder if I still remember.

What is it that I prefer about Europe? Their history is much longer than ours and therefore the organization of society is more evolved. It seems to have created a pace of life that allows it's citizens to enjoy themselves through The Turbulence. It is not free from grief or poverty or catastrophe. It is not Utopia. Perhaps, for me, it simply is a change. And change excites me.

Side Note: I have never been to Prague. I wish I had been there when this happened -

Right, is that amazing? I'm sorry, but you won't find anything like this in even our most creative cities.

There is something that I learned when I traveled that I will never forget. I know what it feels like to be free of an agenda, appreciative for my life, inspired by others, and simply happy. It is all a state of mind and it's all in my mind - I just need to unlock it again. How do I unlock it again?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Postcards to the President

Postcards to the President was my first venture into Activism. The idea is simple, but the follow through involved months of volunteer insanity. For me, it was a trial and error learning experience that allowed me to connect with people for all over the world. Riff Raff like you seemed to like the idea enough and they donated their time and resources and efforts and it was a considerably successful campaign considering it had zero budget. Special thanks to certain Riff Raffian: Beth, Bernardo, Steve, and Adam.

Postcards to the President never had the idea that it would change legislation. The idea was to get people talking about the issue.

After 15,000 postcards sent urging for the repeal of DOMA - not a single response. Change takes time.

And So It Begins...

Dear Riff Raff,

Is that how you call yourself? You, the great unwashed, the proletariat, the plebian, the every man, have made your way to my writings on the wall. These scribbles from my perspective are not unlike many things intentionally preachy, though in the sweeping current of emotion I may betray that code.

In the vastness of populations and time, I find the quest to betterment sometimes bleak so therefore I've settled in the details leaving the bigger picture to those with greater minds. I'll log those details whose content creates an emotional stir in me.

The posts will speak for themselves but, dear riff raff, I hope to leave you with this: While activism is a nice way to pass the time, at game's end, we'll simply ask if we were happy.