Monday, May 25, 1998

Week of 05/25/1998

Is It Reality, Or Is It Negativity?
- by David Matthews 2

You know, I realized that I haven’t taken a pot shot at myself lately. Oh, sure, I lambasted myself when I turned 30, and if I ever finish one of the books I’m working on you’ll see how I’ve really taken some shots at myself. But here on my online column, I’ve been sending out a lot of shots at the world around me without taking one in the foot. So here goes…

Recently I had an online associate complain that I was negative about things. She first thought I was being negative "for a reason," but then just deduced that I was just plain negative about everything. I don’t know what she meant when she thought I was negative "for a reason." Perhaps she thought it was just an act, a character to better expose some of the faults in the world and offer some constructive criticism.

It’s not the first time someone has noticed a streak of negativity in my writings. A few of my readers have noticed this. Ryan Keppel e-mailed to me similar sentiments when he said I was "in general pissed about something or everything," which he said was cool. Rick Gaber commented that I had just too much "edge" for his tastes, but enjoyed my work nonetheless.

Truth be told, I am negative about a lot of things. And yet, I’m not negative about everything. If you’ve ever visited my work in progress called "The New Society," you’d read some pretty optimistic stuff about the changes that we are facing. Unlike the moralists, I don’t believe we are all going to hell in a handbasket. Reactionaries who fail to look at the big picture don’t realize that a good portion of the conflicts we are experiencing are necessary in order for more positive changes to occur. I have a lot of confidence that the world my young niece will inherit in the next two decades will be completely different from the one you and I are living in right now.

I’m not negative about the world. The world has gone on quite well before me, and will continue to do so after I’m gone. However, I am certainly negative about things as they occur to me, specifically.

It wasn’t always like this. Once, I used to be quite positive about myself and what I can do. I used to think I could do anything in the world that I wanted to if I put myself to the task. Graduating from college, I had a degree, I had hopes, and I had a plan for myself. I knew what I wanted to do with my life, and a sense of what it would take to get there.

What happened, you ask? Well, reality happened.

Reality checks are a real ego-buster. You think you’re on the top of the world, that you can do no wrong, that everything will work out just the way you want it to. The reality checks reminds you that you aren’t the center of the universe, and that the world will respond the way other people want it to, not necessarily how you it to.

Mind you, I’ve had my share of reality checks all through school and through college. My social life, although active enough in appearances, rivaled some of the monks at Saint Anselm College. (In fact, I seem to recall there was one brother-in-training who actually had a better social life than me!) Truth be told, I spent more of my time making sure other people had fun than to enjoy the evening myself.

But the real world saved the best for me until after I graduated from college and it was time to set forth that "goal" I had established. Nothing like a little economic recession and an old physical injury to take me out of my goals. I woke up one morning and realized that after literally two years of travelling up and down the East Coast for interviews and tests, the closest I ever got to getting into law enforcement was working for a security company, weekend night shift, at minimum wage, in a small hick town where their definition of "up all night" means closing at ten p.m. instead of nine. It’s rather humbling to realize you live in a town that if you aren’t married by the time you’re 21, you’re already over the hill. That’s when you have to rethink your goals and priorities.

Unfortunately, reality doesn’t wait for you to catch up. You’ve got bills to pay and food to buy. You don’t know what you want to do with your life? Too bad! Work it out along the way. What? Can’t afford a social life and pay the bills? Well, you’re going to have to lose one of them, won’t you? That’s life! Life sucks, so deal with it!

Truth be told, I’d LOVE to be optimistic about myself. I’d love to be able to look at my life and say things would be great from this point on! I used to be able to do that only a few years ago. Unfortunately, the real world doesn’t allow that for me. Almost the minute I say to myself "you know, things are going to get better from here" is when life slaps me down with a new hardship. Get the bills under control? Whoops! That’s when someone gets sick, or the car breaks down. Get used to a job? Whoops! Time to relocate that job to outside the state! Find someone at work you like? Whoops! Time for her to move away, or for your job to end.

And people wonder why I’m negative about myself?

Yet, I know that if God wanted to, I would really be in a world of hurt. There are a lot of things that I am thankful for, such as having parents who are still together, still love each other, and still care enough about me to help me out when possible. I may be a struggling writer, but at least I’m a struggling writer who is still able to pay the bills and go out every so often. Of those things, I’m very thankful for, because I haven’t always had them.

I often like to think that having those reality checks means I can strip away some of the BS that exists out there and see things more realistically. That’s not easy sometime when we’re so wrapped up in the illusions of things instead of their substance. Quite often, I’ve found that a realistic viewpoint is mistakenly confused with a negative one.

I know we all want things to turn out for the best. I know I do. But sometimes we get so wrapped up in the hype that we don’t realist that there are other people with dreams and aspirations, just like you do. Sometimes their dreams and aspirations are in conflict with yours, and someone must lose out. In just too many instances, I was on the losing side. That’s not negativity, that’s reality.

And, of course, I’d like to wake up one day and say to myself "my life will turn out okay" and not have the world slam me down hard. Unfortunately, past experience tells me otherwise.

Monday, May 18, 1998

Week of 05/18/1998

Target: Adultery
A different perspective
- by David Matthews 2

Once upon a time, I used to be hooked on soap operas. My two big favorites were "Days of Our Lives" and "As The World Turns." I still try to catch up every now and then, but my interest in them has waned much.

The big thing that really gets me are the number of affairs that happen. Couple A falls in love, gets married, then Hero A meets Love B, Love A meets Rogue C, Hero A and Love B get real close, which gets Love A jealous, so she sleeps with Rogue C, Hero A finds out and sleeps with Love B, whereby Love A decides it’s over between the two, and Hero A marries Love B, while Love A decides she doesn’t really love Rogue C, and she tries to break up the new marriage by getting Hero A to admit he still loves her and to dump Love B… You with me so far? Mind you, the soap opera relationships get a little more complex than that!

Of course, all the screwing around on television probably doesn’t compare to the kind of affairs that go on in the real world. Usually this kind of mega-dysfunctional relationship is reserved for the Jerry Springer Show, or perhaps the tabloid media. For the most part, the soap opera affairs are theatre, and exaggerated to make people take stock in their own relationships and be thankful that they are happy and content with what they have.

A question was recently asked to members of the Playboy Mailing List, an online discussion group, if the members would be willing to leave their significant others for a Playboy Playmate of their choice. Although the questioner was wondering which playmate it would be, the focus of the responses were instead on whether or not they would leave their significant other for that playmate. Those that responded said quite firmly that they would not. One respondent said it best when he said "If I did, I’d have done it by now."

Radio talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger considers adultery one of the three A’s warranting divorce, besides abuse and abandonment. Moralists have managed to criminalize adultery in at least twenty states in America, although they are less than enthusiastic to enforce those laws when it concerns one of their own.

So what is adultery? Well, in many states, adultery is simply defined as the sexual relations between another person who is not your spouse. Simple, easy to understand, right? Unfortunately it’s not. History is replete of stories containing men and women who had adulterous affairs that were not considered crimes.

At the heart of adultery is betrayal of a relationship. Betrayal of trust, and a betrayal of commitment, made with your spouse or significant other. The traditional wedding vows (at least traditional in the Judeo-Christian vein) include the words "forsaking all others." You can’t get any clearer than that. It goes right up there with "Congress shall make no law.." and "read my lips, no new taxes."

Then there’s a group of couples that freely and knowingly engage in sexual relations with other people. They’re often referred to as "swingers" or couples who have an "open relationship." In the eyes of the law, they are engaging in adultery on a regular basis. But is it really adultery? No, because the core element of adultery - betrayal of trust - is missing. These are couples that know exactly what the other person is doing and have no problem with it. Case in point is the literary classic "Lady Chatterly’s Lover," which deals with a woman who engaged in sex with other men at the behest of her husband, who was crippled in war.

Can two people have an adulterous relationship and not have sex? Of course. But since sex has been considered the ultimate expression of two adults in love, it is a given in many social circles that sex in an adulterous relationship would be the ultimate expression of their affair. It is the easiest to prove that a relationship had gone sour. The key thing to remember, however, is that by the time the physical sex actually occurs, the marriage is already endangered. The damage was done well before the sexual act, because something caused the spouse to yearn for something that they aren’t getting in the marriage.

Now I realize that I would typically be the last person to talk about adultery. I am, after all, a single guy who has never been in a relationship. Normally, I’m not the one to speak about relationships. And yet, it’s probably the view of the single guy that has gone on unreported concerning this kind of situation.

So what do I think about people who have affairs? Well, I think these are some incredibly greedy people!

You know, it’s not easy being single. Searching for that certain someone, trying to find them, only to compete against guys who should have been removed from the dating pool a long time ago. What makes things worse is that the married guys who screw around are the guys who have more money than I have. They have to in order to hide the affair from their family.

I have to almost feel sorry for the women who get suckered into adulterous affairs. The guys, I have no mercy for. They’re the pond scum of the universe. They’re the only sub-breed of men that actually make lawyers and politicians look good. But the women who let themselves get suckered into adulterous affairs, I have a modicum of sympathy for. After all, they’re going through what essentially becomes a lie. They think they’re going to be the next Mrs. Pond Scum. All they have to do is put up with a little bit of isolation while he "prepares" his family for his planned breakup. She goes through holiday after holiday on the false promises that he’d make it up to her. There’s always just one more event, one more family crisis, one more special occasion that he just can’t ruin with the news that he will be leaving them and spending the rest of his life with her. If the fates are kind to her, she’ll come to her senses soon and realize that he’s been lying to her all that time. If not, she’ll be left on the wayside, with the better part of her years spent being suckered by the ultimate con man.

The fact that otherwise attractive and available women are being duped into affairs will always sit under my skin like a splinter. I realize that the dating scene is difficult, even impossible at times. But at some point, these women have to know that what they’re getting into is a pipe dream. Even in the best possible outcomes, he’d still be just a part-time husband to her, unable to direct 100% of his time and money to her because he’d have to divide his time and money towards his kids in the form of visitation and support payments. And there’s no assurance that once she gets "her man" that he’d wander on her once they’re married. After all, this is a guy who destroyed one relationship already.

Of course, the scenario of a single woman and married man is but one of several adultery permutations. In some instances, the affair is between two people who are married to others. But again, we’re talking about some pretty self-centered individuals, playing games with their families and with another person.

If these people feel they need something that their current relationship cannot provide, then they need to discuss it with their spouse, first and foremost. Get it out in the open. If they can’t do that, if they can’t trust their spouse or significant other to help them satisfy what they’ve been desiring, they should have the courage to let the other person go.

I like think that if folks can understand what it’s like to see the dating world through my eyes, then they’d realize just how lucky they are having someone in their lives. They think that relationships are hell? Try living without a relationship for a few years! Or better yet, try living without a relationship for a few years, while watching everyone else get involved and complain about the relationships they have. Trust me, if those wandering souls had to live even a fraction of the things in my life, they’d spend every waking possible moment with their significant other, ever thankful of what they have.

Monday, May 11, 1998

Week of 05/11/1998

Clinton: "I’m not a crook.. Nixon! I meant Nixon! I’m not Nixon!"
No kidding!
- by David Matthews 2

In 1974, the White House tried to use executive privilege to block members of the Nixon Administration from testifying in the Watergate hearings. That tactic failed in the US Supreme Court, and weeks later, President Richard Nixon resigned from office.

I remember seeing Nixon’s resignation on TV. At the time, I was only eight, but even then, I knew that for whatever reason, it was a serious occasion. At that age, presidents were icons, symbols of leadership, people to be respected. I didn’t know why Nixon had to resign back then, only that for whatever reason, it was serious. Years later, I found out what Watergate was all about, and it made the seriousness of his resignation that much more significant to me.

Fast forward almost twenty-five years later. In 1998, the White House tried to use executive privilege to block members of the Clinton Administration from testifying in the Monica Lewinsky grand jury. That tactic has currently failed in a federal court, but it has yet to run its course through the appeals process.

Clinton is still in office, in case you didn’t notice, and has no intention of leaving until 2001. But that hasn’t stopped the comparisons to Nixon

So while the issue is fresh, allow me to provide some brutally honest comparisons between President Bill Clinton and the late President Richard Nixon.


Nixon

Clinton

Full name Richard Millhouse Nixon William Jefferson Clinton
Term in office elected President 1968, re-elected 1972, resigned 1974 elected President 1992, re-elected 1996 (as of published date, still in office)
Nickname "Tricky Dick" "Slick Willie"
Most known for the "blank" scandal Checkers, Watergate Whitewater-gate, Filegate, Travelgate, Troopergate, Zippergate, Campaigngate
Biggest enemies Vietnam war protesters, Democrats, Woodward & Bernstein, the truth Republicans, doctors, Internet providers, Microsoft, tobacco companies, militias, free speech organizations, the media, Matt Drudge, anti-abortion groups, Paula Jones, conservative & libertarian talk show hosts, the truth
Worst place to be found Dallas, Texas, on the same day John Kennedy was assassinated McDonald’s (anyone remember his one visit the first week of his administration?)
Biggest supporters Republicans, his family His family, and anyone who will contribute $100,000 or more to his campaigns
Often found In the White House On the campaign trail, even when he’s not up for election
Concerning sex, he.. .. formed an investigation of pornography in 1970, which failed to find any link between sexually explicit materials and crime. This report was subsequently rejected by Congress and the White House. .. denied allegations of adulterous affairs, defamed anyone who supported such allegations, and signed some of the most restrictive anti-sex laws in the history of the nation.
His wife.. .. Pat, silently endured the President’s slow decline .. Hillary Rodham, became the breadwinner for the family in the 80’s, turned a $1000 cattle investment into a $100,000 windfall overnight, is under suspicion for her possible role in the Whitewater scandal, became the first First Lady to testify before a grand jury, is the first First Lady to have an official White House position (unpaid), and is actively supportive of her husband in every cause she deems the country needs.
Best known for saying.. "I’m not a crook." "No comment" in a million different ways.
"Deep Throat" was.. .. the pseudonym to an informant with knowledge of what happened in the Watergate break-in. .. what Monica Lewinsky was rumored to have done with him.
What does/did him in.. .. tapes recording every conversation, and a portion of the tapes which were erased .. missing files that were found in the White House, stonewalling investigations, tape recordings from Linda Tripp, defaming too many accusers.
Age wasn’t kind to.. .. Nixon, as he developed definitive jowls as he got older. .. Hillary, as she developed definitive jowls as she got older.
As president, he’s accused of bombing… .. Cambodia .. the general public with constant denials of alleged improprieties to the point where they just don’t believe him anymore.
The most dangerous person in his administration was.. .. J. Edgar Hoover, head of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, for all the dirty little secrets he had. .. Dr. Jocelyn Elders, former Surgeon General, for talking about solo alternatives to sex that didn’t involve impeachment hearings or being really nice to Hillary.
The investigations into White House involvement .. .. hurt the President to where he was unable to do his job as President. .. allowed the President to complain about not being able to do his job, without actually defining what his job is and why he has been unable to do it.
Members of his administration were asked to keep with them.. .. their updated letter of resignation, to be approved at any time. .. an attorney, in case special prosecutor Kenneth Starr serves them with a subpoena at any time.

Of course, this list is far from complete, so if by any chance you could come up with some more comparisons, please feel free to let me know about them.

Monday, May 4, 1998

Week of 05/04/1998

Too Real?
Media Now Regrets Instant News
- by David Matthews 2

The image was shocking. A man carrying a gun stops traffic in Los Angeles during evening rush hour. He unfurls a banner that said "HMO’s are in it for the money!" then proceeded to set his truck and himself on fire. Seconds later, he gets out of his truck, extinguished the flames on his body, jump on the retaining wall as if to jump, then retrieves his discarded rifle and proceeds to blow his brains out.

And all of it, including the decisive and bloody scene of the man’s head exploding, brought live to millions of viewers in LA and across America through their television sets.

It’s called live footage - getting the news as fast as possible as it’s happening. Mind you, it’s not new. All radio broadcasts used to be live, as were live television programs. The Hindenberg disaster, the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby, the War of The Worlds radio prank, the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon, the resignation of President Richard Nixon, were all brought live to the public. Thanks to modern technology, the televised media is now able to provide everything instantly to the public from news to sports to entertainment. The real world, brought to you live and unedited.

But now, the media is caught in the classic case of overreaction. The bloody suicide carried live during rush hour interrupted normal daytime programs, including one children’s cartoon show. Hypersensitive parents, naturally, reacted in shock and dismay. The real world was brought before their children, and unlike a cartoon character, this individual did not get up after the gun was fired and wipe the gunpowder from his face. He had no head left. Certainly a powerful lesson for parents who continue to use TV as the lesser babysitter (the greater babysitter being, of course, Bill Clinton and Big Babysitter government).

The media begged for forgiveness over the issue and are now asking themselves at what cost all this instantaneous information. Has it gone too far? Do we now need to reign in this information and go back to the old days where the news was sanitized and tightly controlled?

In other words, is the real world too real for television?

Let’s be brutally honest here - the media unleashed the genie years ago, profited from it heavily and now claim to regret the consequences. Tough! They need to realize that every time they go live, their control over the issue ranges between slim and none! That’s the trade-off they deal with when they show people what is going on live.

The media praised live footage when it suited their needs. How many people remember watching the slow speed chase of OJ Simpson by police to his Brentwood home? The public seemingly couldn’t get enough of it! Those few hours where Americans were glued to their sets created the subsequent media macro-orgy over his murder trial.

The commuters in Atlanta were riveted to their car seats earlier this year over the news of another police chase involving a carjacker. Meanwhile, television viewers were riveted to their seats watching the drama as it unfolded live through helicopter cameras. Los Angeles viewers watched as holdup suspects engaged in a brutal shootout with police through the busy streets of the city.

And yet another benefactor to live footage has to be the Internet. Our need for information, unfiltered by editorial content, unlimited to simply one perspective, has found a medium that allows everyone associated to literally view someone’s bedroom.. if invited.

This kind of information, overwhelming, live, and unedited, is a shock to the very people who have gotten used to controlling it. Information brings knowledge, and knowledge is power. Journalists, politicians, executives, and policy makers alike all thrive in the rigid control of knowledge and information. When faced with circumstances they have absolutely zero control over, they are understandably concerned.

To the news media, I say tough! Deal with it, because you have expected us to for decades! If they can’t, they have no business advertising they bring the news "first, fast, and accurate" (as one Atlanta television station claims). They should instead claim to bring the news just as hotels claim to provide toilet seats.. "sanitized for your protection."