A Fringe Lunatic No More...
When I first started writing this nonsense I used to post essays on various websites under the monicker of "The Fringe Lunatic". For the most part, it was a cry in the wilderness. A kind of futile wail against what I thought to be the de-volution of the society around me. I was angry,. I felt alienated. I felt very much oppressed, because I could not for the life of me figure out why the rest of the world just didn't seem to see things the same way I did.
It was slightly irrational, I agree. But this past election day, I got a glimmer of hope. THERE ARE people who see the world the same way I do, and though I might never meet a whole lot of them, I suddently felt a whole lot less lonely. There are other decent human beings in the United States and they came out and did the right thing on Nov. 2, 2004: they spoke up and were heard.
So, as sort of a purging of the soul, I present to you one of my first essays, entitled: "What is A Fringe Lunatic?". Enjoy:
Teddy Roosevelt once railed against the "lunatic fringe" which existed upon the periphery of American life and politics. He was referring to the anarchist assassins who were responsible for killing his predecessor, President McKinley, and those that supported them. The appearance of this "lunatic fringe", if I read Teddy’s commentary correctly, was interpreted as a danger to the Constitutional Republic and hence, a very real threat to the American way of life. This "fringe" was considered to have consisted of foreigners, with little in the way of political sophistication, and that violence was their only method of discourse. Maybe Teddy was right, maybe not, and I’m not enough of a historian or a political scientist to definitively say which. Suffice to say, Teddy was giving rein to his feelings, which not coincidentally were shared by many in the great American Republic at large. There are many among us today that still feel the same way, and their point of view is not altogether dismissed in the light of the events of September 11th, 2001. Think Pat Buchannan.
I have adopted the epithet of "fringe lunatic", even though I am no foreigner, nor an anarchist, but like many words or phrases (like "everybody does it", "let’s just move on", etc) that evolve to suit the needs of the moment, I will claim this one on the basis of necessity. I lay claim to the title of "fringe lunatic" on the basis that as time goes by, and American society evolves (devolves, in my opinion), people such as myself are being increasingly marginalized and pushed to the fringes of American life by forces beyond the control of most private citizens.
How are people like me being marginalized? Let me count the ways!
To begin with, I’m 35 years old. This makes me too young to be a ‘baby boomer’, the next generation of crybabies and hungry, useless mouths on the horizon, and it also makes me too old to be part of "Generation X", the next wave of spoiled, overindulged idiots who will someday run the country while I’m in my old age. I shudder with fear when I imagine the claims that will be made upon me by my parent’s generation of spoiled brats, and the potential authority of the new generation of spoiled idiots. This puts me in the unenviable position of not being able to sympathize, empathize or communicate well with either my immediate elders or my immediate juniors, both of whom which will live comfortably on the sweat of my brow (between Social Security, Medicaid, school taxes and college loans), and leave me no say about it. I can’t connect with the feeling of entitlement my parent’s people will claim, nor can I see my way clear to address the "issues that affect today’s youth".
I come from a blue-collar background (parents: police officer and secretary, grandparents an auto mechanic and a seamstress) and grew up in the same house with members of my extended family present. Here I learned the life lessons of my grandparent’s day; hard work, responsibility, sacrifice on behalf of the family, and the mantra of my parent’s day; do whatever makes you happy and what "feels" right. If asked, I would say that curriculum of life lessons is somewhat confusing when it comes to moral issues. However, I’ve made my choice as to which lifestyle "feels" right to me, and that is my grandparent’s way of life. I do not need excess, I do not want to be misled by moral relativism, and I do not want to be defined as an aimless, shiftless bastard, qualities which both the Baby Boomers and the Gen X’ers display in massive quantities. This makes me old-fashioned, square, out-of-it, whichever euphemism catches your fancy.
I am a white male, which in the opinion of other demographics makes me; wealthy, sexist, racist, homophobic, power-hungry, repressive and personally responsible for every evil and atrocity ever committed by a white guy at any time since the beginning of recorded history, and maybe even before. This simple fact makes me socially, morally, financially and spiritually responsible for; the oppression of others, racial discrimination, the despoiliation of entire continents, the enslavement of entire races, the Hustle, Jimmy Carter and the pet rock. I’m also the guy that foisted Englebert Humperdink on the world. I can honestly say, with a clear conscience, that I have never oppressed, plundered, raped, victimized, marginalized, exploited, rejected, imprisoned, enslaved, harassed or conquered anyone. As for Englebert I gave him up for Lent ten years ago. Seriously, to today’s "liberal" mindset and political agenda, I am held personally responsible, across time, space and generations, for a whole litany of "historic wrongs" for which I must be maligned, punished, over-taxed, ostracized, and held to account for. After all, I have all the power and money, which I selfishly stole while others built and earned it, others whom I tricked or bullied into creating this society and wealth, and I’m keeping it from everyone else, don’t you know. Queue sinister music.
I am a computer programmer and have reached this modest pinnacle of success due to intelligence and hard effort, without the dubious benefit of a formal college education or degree from an institution of "higher learning". Because I don’t have a piece of paper that established the fact that I was able to parrot whatever some over-educated moron (read: Professor, that is one deputized and endowed with the forms of education but none of the substance), this gives my employer the right to underpay me and keep me from the higher echelons of management in corporate America. This piece of paper is referred to as a "qualification", but what it qualifies one for is beyond my imagination. I have met and worked with plenty of people who have such a device, and I would swear under oath that most of them couldn’t find their own posteriors with both hands and a road map. I wonder just what, if anything, they were ever "qualified" for. Apparently, one cannot learn anything of value by one’s self – knowledge and skill can only be considered "learned" or "useful" if accompanied by a piece of parchment hardly worth, in more than the financial sense, the paper and ink used to print it.
I also have no concern whatsoever for "the environment", "animal rights", failed Third World economies and the political rights of those who live with their consequences, AIDS victims or any other cause that does not directly affect my life or invade my personal space. Yes, I want clean air, water and tress. I like breathing, drinking and admiring a mighty redwood, only an idiot doesn’t, but not at the cost of my home. And besides, cut a tree down and you can always plant another. Sure, I want inexpensive commodities and energy that won’t pollute or hurt any living creature, but not at the cost of my job. Certainly I should eat healthier, and indulge in more grains and vegetables, but damn it, steak, fish, chicken, lamb and pork taste good. I can’t help some poor peasant in Africa overthrow his oppressive regime when he won’t even make the effort to do so, which assumes he’s even aware he’s oppressed. I can’t remove land mines in Cambodia since I don’t know where they are or even how to find them. I can see the logic of some of the concerns people express on these topics, but I don’t believe rioting at meetings of capitalists will solve any of them. I don’t think the all-or-nothing creed of some of the most committed anti-globalists solves, or even attempts to mitigate, the effects of oppression, poverty, disease, food supplies or nature. I require some sort of logical and rational approach to these problems. This makes me a "hater" and an "exploiter". I think those who resort to name calling and throwing bricks at police officers need to look at their own actions and motives before they call mine into question.
I also attended Catholic schools for the whole length of my "educational process", and this had several adverse affects upon me; I was taught to read and write properly, how to properly use mathematic formulae. I learned how to apply logic, and my schooling reinforced some of the nasty standards of the past such as conventional morality, ethics, a belief in social and religious justice, and how to evaluate what is right and what is wrong, in the empirical, ecumenical and sociological senses. These things make me bigoted and judgmental. Well, one can only be rightly bigoted and truly judgmental when one has some standard of evaluation based upon rational methods of measurement. I have these things, so I guess that makes me bigoted and judgmental, but bigoted and judgmental of those who don’t. Some call this a sense of superiority or arrogance; I call it choosing my associates and activities wisely (most of the time). Doesn’t matter though because those who do not have these qualities in their own character will demonize me for having them anyway.
To sum it all up, I’m the type of guy that everybody loves to hate, but without whom the world would come to a screeching halt. People like me are vital to the survival of any society in which we reside, yet my fellow travelers (we’ll call them the "Great Unwashed, Greedy, Ignorant Rabble") can’t get themselves to acknowledge it. To them, we’re something like an ATM machine; a handy device for dispensing cash. Sometimes were looked upon as something resembling a crash test dummy, which they use to test the limits of our tolerance while they push the envelope on issues such as employment, politics, moral relativism and sloth. We haven’t failed and fallen apart yet, because our patience is infinite, our steel-hard construction intact, but that day might come sometime. But not yet, for even as our rights are trampled in the name of "justice" and "equality" by others who scream loudly for the "respect" they are due, and which they haven’t earned, they expect people like us to sit still, pay for it, and indulge their every destructive whim. We are made of sterner stuff.
My breed of people make concrete contributions to our society and country everyday with simple acts of quiet bravery and responsibility such as, oh, going to work and paying our taxes to support the lazy, useless, lame, halt and crippled. We lead our lives in the traditional American sense, with a respect for the law and the rights of others. You don’t see us destroying property, neighborhoods and businesses and then crying about how we can’t find a job. You don’t see us making excuses for failure and demanding symbolic remedies that haven’t even the scent of a pretense of correcting the underlying reasons for it, while we scratch our heads in disbelief or shake our fists in rage, when further failure was the inevitable, and foreseeable, result.
We are increasingly the victims of others; race hustlers, feminists, revisionist historians, "academics", politicians, "liberals", who seek to advance their version of what is right, what is just, and what is workable, against our will and in the face of a system, built by people like us, that has been proven to work. I am reminded of the adage that if you tried to teach a chimp to write, he will eventually get frustrated and stick the pen in your eye – I feel like the chimp’s instructor. Since I believe that most of the people around me in my little world are just like, or rapidly becoming, that illiterate chimp, this is what makes me a fringe lunatic, the one island of sanity in a sea of stupidity, vulgarity and savagery.
I’m damned proud to be a fringe lunatic, and if you’re one too, so should you. We fight a (sometimes) frustrating battle against those that demand rights and respect without being able to define either. We climb uphill against the increasing burden of other people’s flawed, Utopian agendas and find the strength to continue in faith and our intrinsic feeling that we are on the right path to a personal paradise within our own tiny, personal fiefdoms. We deal with the here and now of kids, bills, work, love and reality while they delude themselves with visions of what never was and what can never be. It’s been my experience that as I have grown older, and my idealism has been somewhat dulled, that I have come to gradually form the kind of opinions that make me a fringe lunatic. It has also taught me that given time, even our chimp will stop sucking the ink out of the pen when he finds it an unpleasant experience and move on to something more useful to his here and now, like peeling and eating bananas.
People are the same way. They eventually learn to stop their harmful and idiotic patterns of behavior and to start doing the right thing, or most of them do, anyway. It’s a quality that God programmed into a human being, and which only waits for some event to turn it on – it’s called self-interest. The poor become the rich, the failed become the successful and the lazy become the productive all because they’ve eventually reached a stage where it’s in their self-interest to do so. In the end, that makes us all Fringe Lunatics, but it’s frustrating as all Hell waiting for the chimps to evolve into Men. Until then, let’s stand tall, be proud and secretly snicker to ourselves that we know a secret that they don’t.