Cavalier About Fear

Gimme some time this weekend…I’ve been writing for years long before #MeToo and subpar Michael Jackson documentaries…about that tenuous link between pop culture and morality. I came outta the church where playing cards and rock n roll were evil…so I spent that time writing and sorting out my thinking because what the church was saying wasn’t aligning with my experiences.

When we were kids we had benevolent white police offices come to our school with Elmer The Safety Elephant: remember that? And the police would assure us we could come to them; that if an adult touched us in our swimming suit area or we were in trouble we could go to the police…we could be safe with the police. That’s nice.

But…there’s always a but after I’d hug Elmer The Safety Elephant I’d go home and listen to Public Enemy or Ice-T and they’re telling me cops are racist…cops brutalize black people. Elmer The Safety Elephant is a racist?! He seemed so nice…even with all the minority kids.

That experience was so jarring because somebody isn’t telling me the truth…I dunno how to reconcile Elmer The Safety Elephant with Public Enemy. (And that is the first time in history those two have been put together in the same sentence!)

Likewise the church is telling me that rock n roll is evil and that KISS stands for Kids/Knights In Satan’s Service. But then God is saying I love you and here’s some grace. So…am I going to hell for listening to KISS’ excellent 1977 album Love Gun?

(And why is that the question anyways?! That implies that God is keeping a detailed catalog of my pop culture consumption to use…what as evidence? Like if He finds Stupid Ned Flanders offensive I’m going to hell for watching The Simpsons?!! That rationally does not make any sense. Why would I sign up for a God and a church to live in that fear and have to repent daily for my pop culture transgressions.)

Working on the I Kissed Dating Goodbye My Summer Lair episode I quickly realized that was about fear and control…it had little to do with sex. It was adults and church groups and suburban moms who call rap crap attempting to exert control over teenagers because they feared the outcomes of having high school sex. (And to be a little fair..some of those concerns are legit. It’s just losing-sleep-fear is crippling and rarely rational.)

The problem is you can’t casually drop the word sex into a conversation without that hijacking the whole conversation: sex, money, love these are not traditional words they are solar eclipses: they will blind you if look directly at them so we look everywhere else and we cowardly don’t deal with the topic at hand hence abstinence. There that should solve the problem.

It doesn’t.

In that same My Summer Lair episode I compared those adult fears and their lust for control to weed…Just Say No. Adults were terrified we’d get into weed. Terrified.

Again this isn’t about weed…you don’t OD from smoking Mary Jane. It’s about fear and control. Telling a kid not to smoke weed because “I Said So!” is like telling a kid you hafta get good grades because you are going to Harvard no matter what. Because “I Said So!” shouldn’t be a thing.

Dissent is the gold standard backing up our social currency. (Oh snap…just wrote that but that is so tight!).

And that is where dissent is valuable…pushing back against the fear and the control. If you want to enjoy KISS’ music go for it…if I am wrong or out of line and sending kids to hell than I am responsible for that and God will punish me accordingly. I accept that and willingly roll the dice.

But…there’s always a but everything is conflated now: enjoying Michael Jackson means you support abusing children. If that corny premise is true than how do Catholics rationalize going to church every Sunday? I don’t conflate the issues…I deal with them one at a time which is a problem in a society that is comfortable and busy conflating. The other issue is my focus is on the fear and the control.

We saw all this with Steve Bannon. He is our political boogeyman…lefties are so frightened of him so they conflate him/it all into one horrible hot mess: the end of democracy, rise of fascism, Orwell’s 1984, the flourishing of white supremacy, the death of minorities: the end of all hope and light.

Slow Down.

When I push back (sometimes hard…fed up with the foolish) for Bannon I am advocating for a reasoned rational approach…that it makes more sense for us to hear what he has to say than to drive him underground.

I am the tired Dad in the middle of the night opening my little daughter’s closet to prove to her there are no monsters now can we all go back to sleep? My push back is against fear and control: not an agreement with his messages. I can’t agree or disagree with him until I hear what he’s got to say. You people conflated all this…I did not. I am simply advocating for him to speak…that’s my first fight. What he says; what he does after…those are totally different fights and issues and should be addressed accordingly and with resolved measure and order.

So I know I’m outta step and maybe even outta line…and yet I have hundreds of pages just sitting on my hard drive. I worked for years through these issues: I’m not hyper reacting to a cheezy documentary.

I just don’t know if publishing them online is gonna help or make things worse…or I could always be ignored. We’re good at marginalization. I don’t consider self-censorship an option…that discouraging feeling that it’s “not worth” the hassle or the anger and the unfriending and the twitter blocking. Those reactions I don’t lament as they’re the hallmarks of cowards.

The central guiding question is if it helps…if it serves and if it pushes the conversation in a more healthier, nuanced direction. If it doesn’t than I’m just adding to the noise and narcissism online. Oh how we need so much less of that these days.


Lemme see this weekend. To the kettle! It’s time for tea!


Listen to My Summer Lair @ W • T • F

Also published on Medium.

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