Women Have Nice Shapes, and What An Interesting Civil War Landmark

I have friends who I care about deeply who often feel obliged to lecture me from positions of pedantry about sexism and racism. I ask them point blank, do you think I’m racist? Do you think I’m sexist? No, they say, you’re not. So why all the censure? Do I have the kind of face that invites correction?
One of these friends is a lady and I admit I am sexist in that I tolerate the lecturing from her, a lot more so than I do from my male friend who seems to enjoy practicing his liberal schpiel on me. I’m also a liberal, by the way, have always been ever since I learned my humanism from Vonnegut and saw that as human beings what we seem to be best at as a group is throwing our used tires into rivers.
My brother for a short while started calling himself libertarian and wanted to know why I expected basically anything from the country. That’s not what it’s for, he’d say when I would list education and support for science and possible help for exorbitant health care prices. I’d then ask what the nation is for if it’s not to help out the citizens who have agreed to create and support it. After some lengthy and repetitive debate during which I sent him Ron Paul suggesting that family should be taking care of medical bill assistance (got some money for me to see a dentist, brother?), Dr. No followed this by saying he often worked pro-bono. Which when you think about it rather proves the point. I haven’t heard much about libertarianism since he had his daughters. Things have changed. His daughters are in public school.
My friends suffer from a disease. The disease is authoritarianism. Some folks can’t help it, they just need to stand on you and declare correctness. They would be astounded by my saying this, but it’s really the most efficient way to put it. I am possibly their most trusted and loyal non-family friendship, which in many cases is much stronger than family relationships. Hell, spouses can argue to death and never make the slightest bit of impact on one another’s outlooks. I suspect that my role in this case is one of practice argument partner (since actual argument partner, the spouse, is either uninterested or unflappable). When I was married my wife used me for this all the time, and of course, I hated it. My ex-wife, we’ll call her Trixie, loved crime shows. She’d sit on the sofa and soak in the miserable entertainment form many Americans find so compelling—rape and murder, sometimes combined. The show would go to commercial after a particularly well-arranged stress moment with the guest star (just like on Columbo always the villain) and focus her gaze of intent on me. Within a few seconds my cheery evening of spooning macaroni into my maw would be set ablaze with accusations of feral evil. I was just like that fictional evil doer that was “ripped from the headlines”. I drove a van and had a beard and my attitude about women was fairly carefree and loaded with hopeful sexiness. Well, I wasn’t exactly running a dungeon or a brothel or anything, but, what exactly had I done other than join her on the sofa with a meal I’d prepared? I was her practice dummy. Most of Trixie’s day was wrapped up in cataloging stupid things other people do. She didn’t always have a load of good examples, though sometimes the few she had were pretty good. Some nanny she met had told her a story of a mom who didn’t believe children should be disciplined and the stories about these kids were phenomenally disturbing. Other times the stories weren’t so funny, the family she was working for expected her to arrange a party for them and the various details of this shenanigan were the stuff of oblivious rich folks taking advantage of the poor—heck there were actual comedy shows that were less well arranged. These law and violence things are ever ridiculously looking for the next wild hook, I mean we’ve seen the blood and guts. We’ve seen the shooters and killers. We’ve seen the drugs, and sex orgies, etc. So pretty soon they’re bringing in giant snakes, packs of wild dogs, and implied aliens. Well when the thing turns into an eighties era horror movie I treat it as such and begin riffing and laughing. Damsels in distress with beasts carrying them off into the night is a whole separate kind of entertainment from what I consider cop shows. At the next commercial break I get an earful of how I’m a misogynist and am accused of being what’s-wrong-with-the-world. The plague of my inability to really enjoy wallowing in the prurient and plainly asinine depredations of television entertainment eventually attributed to me getting a divorce.
There are times I correct people, especially in this age of Trump and some of the most jaw-droppingly weird news stories coming out of the political spectrum we’ve ever seen. People just stating things we know to be obviously untrue, but adding the phrase “believe me” to it with an emphatic hand gesture. My major advisor used to correct me quite a lot, but it was sort of his job. It was also due to the fact that he seemed incapable of understanding sarcasm, though, he was often snickering at the joke when he went through the rigor of explaining why I was wrong. Oh dear, he often exclaimed in a high pitched sort of jittery giggle before explaining the meaning of some term I’d purposely misconstrued Archie Bunker-like. He had an impressive collection of specialty dictionaries (he was especially fond of a 1937 Torre-Bueno Glossary of Entomology) that often came out at these times (after two years of working with him I got my own copy, almost accidentally, and began bringing it out whenever I could). Half of being an academic is having the right collection of serious books, the other half is properly using them.
In the end, I don’t mind being given information. You can’t be an know-it-all and be a serious academic. Only laypeople think they know everything. Only dolts like Rush Limbaugh and professional wrestler “heels” imagine that it’s possible to be thoroughly knowledgeable in all realms. Actually educated folks have an idea about how much information is actually out there and are honest enough to realize that no one could grasp it all. Philosophically only scientists actually understand what it actually takes to know something. Hint: it ain’t so because someone told you or because you read a book (though I usually like to encourage the reader). That aside, however, most of the correcting I get from my beloved friends is of the sort that is really just social superiority, or more authoritariansim, masking only the fact that they’ve adopted some interests as theirs and want very much to practice showing you how much they know and why behaving as they say to do makes you a better human being. It’s fine really we’re all guilty of this to some degree. In fact, I just held off doing it to my mother who was talking about having saved some antibiotics just in case she gets another chest infection (sigh), there’s really not much that can be done to persuade her that hanging onto the tidbits of these prescriptions and trying to use them later like aspirin is actually part of a growing problem of drug resistance, so I don’t. It wouldn’t go over well.
Honestly I think the correcting is a kind of sign of hopelessness and that eventually leads to depression. Correcting (especially with people who are on your team) is a kind of safe way to be hopeful. It isn’t actual demonstration or protest. Or if it is, it’s merely the laziest form. A protest launched at someone perfectly safe who actually agrees with you is possibly the baby-steps of maybe doing something more extraordinary later. If you admire Pussy Riot but don’t really want to spend time in jail for insulting the clergy by playing a rock show in their church or something, well, find your friend who sometimes baldly says things like, women have nice shapes, or has an embarrassing interest in Civil War landmarks, and unbox your weapons of social justice.

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