Friday, August 29, 2008

i live in seattle, one of the best towns in the country for live music. the local scene is world-class, and every band worth hearing, along with another million or so, comes through the city when they tour.

at the same time, almost every time i go to a show, i can't help but feel bad for the bands, because i can't remember how many times i've watched a great band rock the shit out of a stage somewhere, really putting their whole hearts into it, and then i look out over the crowd, and everyone is just standing there, arms crossed, attempting a look of detached intellectuality, as if they were some emotionally retarded researcher observing an interesting specimen as it wriggles in the plastic restraints, lips pursed, head nodding ever so slightly. like they're attending a lecture they're not really interested in but feel like they need to burnish their cultural and/or intellectual street cred. either that, or they're texting their friends and surreptitiously making fun of what that girl over there is wearing.

call it the cool kid syndrome: i am unimpressed, because i am unimpressable. i've seen/done/been that and am so over it.

it's fucking horseshit.

when i was younger, i was cynical, too; too cool for school. i was sure that my eyes were open, unclouded, that my nose could detect the slightest whiff of bullshit no matter how deeply buried or covered over. it was a defense mechanism, of course, an overcompensation for the fear and discomfort i felt at how strongly and deeply i could feel things, at how i could be carried away out of myself and my comfort zone by things beyond my understanding or control. eventually my brain began to rewire itself so as to filter out things that moved me, things that might dangerously upset my cynical detachment, my ability to put ironic distance between myself and the world, because i lacked the courage to allow myself to be moved. no matter what was right about a thing, i could tell you right away what was wrong with it, and by doing so i could extinguish its power over me. such is the nature of being cool.

you may be asking yourself (if you exist, being that i'm pretty sure noone reads this): what's that got to do with anything? sure, we all feel better calling bullshit on bullshit. it can be very therapeutic and it makes your friends like you more. but there's a point i'm trying to make here.

i had to work last night (i tend bar for a living, and while i work only three days a week, on those days i'm usually there for 12 hours or so), and last night was busy more or less start to finish. as barack obama was delivering his acceptance speech at the democratic national convention i was busy schlepping happy hour cocktails and five dollar pizzas to a couple dozen regulars and some randoms, and then spent the rest of the night slinging cocktails and schooling fools in bar etiquette. i didn't get home until almost five in the morning, because after the fun's all over, we get to clean up the mess while everyone else has sex and/or breakfast. i started to watch the daily show on the dvr, but once i saw evan bayh's face i had to turn it off.

i was beat-down tired, my body aching, my ass chafed raw from the ten miles i walked between the register and the service area. i was pissed off because the girl i like blew me off and is sleeping with a friend of mine. even jon stewart couldn't bring a smile to my face.

then i turned on the computer and clicked on the youtube. i'd heard all night about how good the speech was. i'd been told to be ready for teary eyes and goosebumps, and not necessarily in that order.

and the man delivered. holy shit did the man deliver.

i remember four years ago. i missed obama's keynote speech, the one that made him famous, but enough of my friends talked about it that i looked it up and watched it, and i remember thinking: that guy's going to be the first black president. i still think so.

but back to last night, or rather this morning, because by the time it was all said and done, the sun was clearly visible in the sky.

there were goosebumps. there were tears in my eyes. i remember being grateful when he went down the laundry list of policy specifics, told us what the obama presidency will mean, because if he had kept up with the heart-string pulling i was definitely going to cry, and even though i was alone with noone to see, there is still enough of that younger me inside to feel shame at being so easily moved by a fucking politician.

and yeah, i know that a politician is what he is. i don't agree with every plank in his platform, and i understand that in practice there will be compromises i might prefer not come to pass. but i hear the call that he's giving voice to. i've been waiting for that call my whole life. there's always been an idealist in me, constantly at war with the cynic, and to finally hear someone i can actually vote for say those words i've been waiting to hear stirred me in ways that usually only the love of a good woman or a really good rock tune can.

which brings me, full circle, back to where i started. i spent an hour or so today surfing the web, looking to relive the elation i felt as i watched obama last night, an elation shared by pat fucking buchanan of all people, a man who is as ideologically opposite to myself as it is possible to be, and seemingly almost noone else.

what i found instead is a bunch of cool kids picking nits, people whose intellects i genuinely respect, even if they are only capable of deconstructing things and not building anything, people who are seemingly not for anything, only against things. and it makes me angry. not that they don't feel what i feel, or think what i think, but that such minds could be so colonized by cynicism that their capability for wonder and faith have shrivelled and dried out so completely.

it also makes me sad, for exactly the same reasons. i feel compassion, because i too nearly fell into that trap. it would have been easy.

one of the reasons i named this blog what i did (aside from the fact that i think it's really catchy) is to continually remind myself that it isn't enough just to be against things (a point that barack obama makes quite often). finding fault with the constructions of others is the easy part. in this world of compromise and illusion and imperfection (indeed imperfectibility), there is always a flaw, always a nit to pick. one of the things i like about the scientific mindset is the radical doubt; we can never say the world is just so, only that we haven't found any evidence to the contrary of what we have theorized and tested and found to hold up under scrutiny in the lab and in the field.

but you have to be able to make that leap of faith, to believe in something. you have to have the courage to be for something, because it's the only way anything ever gets done. and so i have dubbed myself the anticontrarian; i am against those who are only against things, because if you ain't for nothin' then there ain't nothin' there.

that doesn't mean you have to close your eyes. this ain't peter pan, where if you clap hard enough and believe in fairies then tinkerbell will be okay. that's the trick, actually. you see the chasm, but you jump anyway, because otherwise you're gonna be standing there forever.

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