Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Good (Hu)Man Is Easier to Find

As soon as my friend Andy Bluefenced (not his real name) began speculating on the meaning of the closing scene of Flannery O'Connor's "Good Man Is Hard to Find" (original title: "A Benevolent Male Human Is Difficult to Locate"), I knew everything was gonna be alright.

I knew things were getting better, getting better all the time. I could see the smiles returning to our faces as I hummed "Here Comes the Sun" while walking my clueless canine companion.
There she lies, unable to be a good woman.

And what words from O'Connor's Southern Gothic yarn dragged me out of depression's dangerous dungeon? A psychopathic killer known as The Misfit has just shot an old woman, then eulogized her with this pronouncement: “She would have been a good woman . . . if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”

It's important to note that the woman had just then cleared her foggy old brain long enough to recognize even The Misfit as just another damaged, vulnerable, disappointed human, a member of what used to be called "the Family of Man," and later "the Family Stone" (pardon this sly reference).

Yes, it was this line that let the sun shine through the crack in everything.*

Over half of the Americans who went to all the trouble to vote in this year's Penny Dreadful presidential election awoke on November 9 to find a crack in everything and something orange waiting to shoot them.

I look at that, and I see that it is good. When a person knows she will be shot in a fortnight, it concentrates her mind wonderfully, to paraphrase possibly Samuel Johnson.

Having a good idea of the plans and appointments of the Commander-in-Cheeto, the Creep of Tweet and His Sheep Veep, The Tower and His Bower has forced us to decide what we really want for this country, then find a way to get it done while the Dragon sleeps between tweets.

And there's no time for name calling! 

I spent my formative years in the 1960s, and saw the angry and the disillusioned -- particularly during and after the 1968 Democratic Convention -- become the nation's squeaky wheel. Some of them were nut jobs. Some went too far. But millions acted on their collective conscience, and they marched peacefully, protested in massive demonstrations far too large to ignore.

Millions strapped it on and waged a war on Steppenwolf's Monster. This was not their motto, but it could've been: "This ain't right. Fix it!" Give black people their rights, for God's sake! Stop sending boys off to be killed for uncertain reasons! Treat women like humans!

And things changed for the better.

And here we are again with somebody about to shoot us every minute of our lives. 
Do you know about this organization?

Here I must disclose to readers who don't know me,** I am cynical to a sick degree. I am shocked and surprised when a red light actually turns green. I always expect my brand to lose, and even when I'm convinced the glass is half full, I worry that it's spiked with lead poisoning.

But post-election America is getting better. Granted, some new nut jobs have turned over cars and, in the deepest heart of cliche, set fire to American flags, an attention-grabbing bit of silliness as cliched as a college's underground newspaper attempt to epater le bourgeois, i.e., piss off and embarrass the secretaries in the administration office, as well as the Board of Trustees.
From a guy who pledged allegiance to the American flag while in an internment camp

But I know personally many, many people who have traded their whining and legitimate pain for the causes they love. Put in a better, much more original way, they have put their money where their mouth is, donating to endangered causes. And they are making so many phone calls that Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio are considering changing their party affiliation.

And it's working, folks. Check this out.

The election, while temporarily darkening our hopes, has rekindled the Eternal Candle inside every healthy human being. Now we see more clearly -- that focus thing Johnson spoke of earlier. We have been disillusioned, which is always a good thing.

We know who our fellow Americans are now. Many good and decent people voted for the fruit-fly plagued orange, and they had their reasons, and I respect them. But there were way too many who used this campaign and its woeful results to release and spew arguably the most despicable element of the yahoo species: Hatred for the Other, especially for the Other they've never met.

The Orange Glow has shone its light upon them, and now we know. Now we can get our priorities in order and go about the work, as William Blake said, of building Jerusalem to displace the Dark Satanic Mills. By that, my friend means making our home (the earth) as just and healthy as possible.

Compared to the Sixties, we are accomplishing this more maturely, more civilly, more realistically. And, thanks to social media, we can encourage and educate each other, making more people aware of what needs to be done next. 

To demonstrate our restraint combined with our persistence, maybe we could swap "Up Against the Wall, Motherfucker" for "How Can I Keep from Singing?" And then, for a little more bite, accompany our marches with this one. (But don't go near that link if you're squeamish about language.)
Photo by Keith Allen. Ahh, the Transfiguration!

Finally, a brief enumeration of how the election has affected me, and I do this only to make sure I'm not as alone as I feel: I am angry about everything. I refuse to watch news from CNN or the major networks. Erroneously called  the "liberal media," they are instead the incompetent, ratings-hungry media who think it's fun to have a close election. Had they been liberal, the guy the Republicans nominated would not have advanced past the first round of primary debates.

I refuse to learn how to pronounce Ms. Orangelove's name, nor will I look at the pictures of her naked body readily available on the Internet. 

I refuse to watch shallow, box-office-based, noisy movies that simply help us amuse ourselves to death while reinforcing our infantile belief that our survival depends on intervention from another reality. We don't have time for that. 

And I'll never consult another Nate Silver poll as long as I breathe.

I no longer give a shit who wins the uf-FSU game. I really don't. We have a bigger game to win. For example, those melting icecaps the Chinese invented are worrisome. Also, my Muslim friends have become very uncomfortable living here. Some kids fear their family will be torn apart and become especially anxious when the word "internment" comes up in a conversation. My LGBT friends get seriously negative vibes when the new veep uses the word "solution." So yes, in the game that matters most, we need a touchdown in a hurry. Too damn late for a field goal. 

I try to make every human encounter a kind of, I don't know, secular communion. For only a few seconds, to make a stranger smile or maybe even laugh, make her feel recognized as a human and not just a sales clerk or Salvation Army bell-ringer or waitress or bank teller or gastroenterologist assistant -- these moments could well be as close as we're going to get to what some call heaven.

I try to be the nice guy who shows up unexpectedly in a nightmare. The election results have encouraged me to try even harder.

And really finally, I'd like to express deep gratitude for my friends whose focus and tenacity I admire so much. There are many, but here are a few: Barbara Carson, Lili Falk Cattin, Kathy Savage, Debra Munn, Kevin Gibson, Pattie Ward, LaNora Zipperer, Miranda Harmon and Kathleen Isberg (probably her husband Karl, too, but I prefer not to compliment him.)

Dear friends, I am proud of your courage in the shadow of the gallows. And I am happy to live in a country where they haven't yet rounded you and me up and shot us in a non-metaphorical way.

Hey, everybody: Get your Better Angels out of mothballs and put'em to work. In the words of Chicago, "We can make it happen."

*Editor's note: It is likely the author has occasionally plagiarized from some of the better popular poetry of his generation. In a verbal evisceration attributed to Samuel Johnson, the early part of this piece is "both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good."

**Editor's note: The author has little reason to believe strangers actually read Starknotes.


  1. Thank you for including me in this. It is extremely well said and I am honored.

  2. Roy, this is wonderful! I promise to join your crusade of kindness and connection. Thank you the honor of appearing here. You have long been the good stranger in my nightmare.

  3. You're the one doing the heavy lifting, and sure do appreciate it. We'e lucky to be alive for the Second Sixties.

  4. I really needed to read this, Roy.....can't seem to shake this funk....find a new purpose, woman, and "make it happen"

  5. I love the Leonard Cohen reference "shine through the crack in everything"

  6. Dear Starknotes: I'm a stranger and I'm very glad I read this. Thank you!

    1. Well God love ya, Jenifer, if there is a God, and feel free to read more. This baby must have over 50 posts by now.