Short man’s burden

One thing us short guys are constantly contending with is the saintly, heroic qualities imbued upon tall men merely by virtue of their genetic height, and conversely, the weakness and cowardice presumed to live in the hearts of short men (also, by virtue of their genetic lack of height).

As a society, we are guided by strong dichotomous perceptions of very tall and very short men, and this continuous feedback loop of expectations and behaviors often creates the exact personalities that society expects, thus reinforcing the circular cycle of preordained personality height characteristics.

Not only must short men fight their stature’s egregious conspicuousness, they are left to disprove preconceived notions that previous generations of short men have left behind. To be short is to literally fight your way out of a hole in order to attain even minimally equal standing in the eyes of society.

I was reminded of this passage from Candice Millard’s “Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President”, a chronicle of the life and assassination of President James A. Garfield in 1881.

Millard describes the moments prior to the shooting at the Baltimore and Potomac train station in the nation’s capital where the deranged assassin, Charles Guiteau, waited nervously for the appearance of the President who, with his two sons, was about to board a train which would take him to New England where he would meet his wife and daughter. Millard writes:

As Garfield entered the station, Sarah White, the matron for the ladies’ waiting room, looked up from her position next to the room’s heater. She watched as the president and secretary of state strode by, Blaine slightly ahead of Garfield, Harry and Jim trailing behind them. Garfield walked with an easy, natural confidence—“absolutely free from any affectation whatever.”

He must have made a striking contrast to Guiteau, whom White had also been watching that morning. Not only was Guiteau nearly half a foot shorter than the president and seventy-five pounds lighter, but he seemed as uncomfortable and nervous as Garfield was at ease. As he shuffled soundlessly between the gentlemen’s and ladies’ waiting rooms, his shoulders bent, his head tilted at an odd angle, and his dark slouch hat sitting low over his eyes, Guiteau had seemed suspicious to White. “He would look in one door and pass on to the next door and look in again,” she remembered. “He walked in the room once, took off his hat, wiped his face, and went out again.”

Note the archetypal short man’s burden swimming through this narrative. The taller (six feet tall, in this case) man is angelic and brave and the pinnacle of self-assured masculinity, whereas the short man is nervous, skittish and suspicious. And of course, the short man is sneaky and dangerous, and in the case of Guiteau’s assassination of Garfield, all the standard height roles fulfilled themselves to our utmost expectations.

A tad melodramatic, perhaps, but the repetitious plot follows the short man throughout his life. His born role is that of mongrel, and he is further debilitated by society’s concomitant instinctive adoration and worship of the tall man. The difference between the tall man and the short man becomes more than just a matter of a few inches: it becomes a vast, inhuman gulf that bisects two circles of existence.

The short man must act tall but in order to do so, he must first learn not to succumb to popular notions that he has no control over. The short man must strongly shape his own reality before the larger reality he lives in drowns him. The short man must not be overly conscious of this for this also becomes embarrassingly obvious.

House Of Cards is feeding my political cynicism

I’ve begun watching the new “Netflix Original” political drama soap, “House Of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey as Francis Underwood, a scheming House Majority Whip who will stop at nothing to achieve his own less than amenable goals and political fixations. Directed by David Fincher, a favorite of mine, the taut and piercing drama sets out to uncover a small “behind the scenes” glimpse of the grown-up, political shenanigans of the Beltway.

I haven’t the slightest clue as to the veracity of HOC’s portrayal of how “business” is conducted in D.C., but I suspect that if it strays from reality, the gap is too small for patriotic comfort.

Perhaps what the show does best is to illustrate what a vile and self-protective group of scumbags we’ve allowed to fester in their own self-perpetuated castles of lustful power and elitism under the shameful pretense of “public service.” The show reiterates what we know: any person heartless and depraved enough to seek national political should not be entrusted with such powers.

Politics serves no purpose other than as a dirty old band-aid that desperately tries to keep a wound’s parting edges from splitting. Politics, especially of the national variety, only serves to prop up this shaky fantasy while gratuitously congratulating and rewarding its own players. Politics, as a profession, is designed for the power-hungry and greedy. As long as these are the types of people we allow to rule this nation, the results will invariably be a rising tide of sea scum brought to us by our so-called political representatives. Legislation is meaningless pomp and circumstance, utter bureaucratic banality we believe is the tangible product given to us by all the mysterious officiousness that lurks in the shadowy hallways of the nation’s capital. The political system is designed in such a way that what they do is shrouded in an elusive coat of incomprehensible self-engorging code that alienates us from our own leaders. But they are stupid people.

The real revolution will occur when we lift the curtain and expose their pallid motivations. When we throw the rascals out on the street and govern ourselves. When we learn that entrusting our life to morally and socially removed elites can only dig our hole deeper.

Football is stupid and boring; a true testament of American character!

 

I certainly can’t remember a day in my life when I actually liked football. I’ve never cared for the game.

 

Now, I haven’t always had an aversion to sports. Baseball was the sport of my youth. I played in Little League and dived into the sport with all the statistics-minded abandon of a modern-day fantasy-footballer during my teen years. Even as a youngster, I recall many nights lying in bed after the lights were out while I listened intently to Vin Scully announce the Dodger home game while the buzz of the crowd framed the tinny sound emitting from my clock radio. Much of my youth was intertwined with the fate of the Dodgers, with their glories and defeats. The concept of competition and athleticism did not offend or bore me. Later, in my 20s I also became a hockey fan and pledged my allegiance to the L.A. Kings. Who couldn’t love the Miracle on Ice? That was what sports should be…in my mind.

 

But football absolutely bored the hell out of me. As a boy, I succumbed to the popular illusion to football as the ultimate focal point of all the fake male bravado that Americans eat up like armchair pansies. I tried my best to learn about football, to learn the rules and follow the weekly games, but I simply did not have it in me to do this.

 

Football was not for me.

 

Much of my family liked football, of the professional and college variety, and during the autumn holidays it was inevitable that a group of male relatives would gather loudly around the television in complete disregard of the parallel family events at hand, but I would venture as far away from the televised gridiron mayhem as possible. It’s not that I enjoyed the family events. I simply hated the football spectacle even more than listening to all my female relatives prattle on incessantly about stupid bullshit. In fact, I frequently found myself outside where I could stare at the sky or the trees, neither of which preoccupied themselves with boy’s games or girl’s stories.

 

I went anywhere I could find that didn’t involve men in helmets and tight shiny pants, running around in spurts of 4-second action. Boring. At such a young age, my sense of self was not cemented and I believed something must be wrong with me for not liking football. Football was what men liked. Men acted simple and masculine when football was present. Manhood seemed to regress before my eyes when the stupid game was at hand. They were loud and moronic sheep as the game clock counted down the inexorable fits of “action.” I never summoned the ability to sink to that level.

 

Hey man, I tried my best to like football. I tried desperately to integrate into in my manly arsenal. If I could just bring myself to like football, I would be like all the men I knew, lumbering simpletons mesmerized by the oval pig-skinned chicanery. But no matter how I tried, it never came to me. The spell of football missed me every time.

 

There came a point in my life where I was able to surmount the pinnacle of self-empowered maturity and see with clarity the idiocy of our American cultural lie which could ever entertain the foolish notion that football defined masculinity in this post-industrial technologically-enabled pussyfest called America at the turn of the Century. I saw football for what it is, and more importantly, accepted that its hollow image was not worth my time, and indicative in a grander sense, of a sociological malaise that I was thankful not to be a part of.

 

Football has become the vehicle of empty-headed American arcana which found bold ascendance in the latter 20th Century just as the last remnants of true American masculinity was struggling over its last gasps of air.

 

Football today is a vehicle of blind consumerism and a displaced sense of masculinity that has now been rendered homeless by the rapid equalization of the genders. Football is less about the game than it has ever been. Football is America. It is a symbol of excess, gluttony, shallowness, instant gratification and impatience. It is a boring sport boasting of a lot of hot-aired faux strategies and steered by well-placed periods of inactivity rather than actual movement. Football oozes commercialism and half-time glitter. All spontaneity and originality is cloaked within accepted and rehearsed time frames of carefully measured doses of expensive trashy offerings. Football is us!

 

I heard someone argue that football should be the American pastime. Not sure about that, but football is more American than America.