Archive for January, 2010

The cult of superficial personality


*The following article was contributed to us by Mr. Ron Sebestik of Mahomet, IL.

Back a few years I spent my days sweating with 140 eighth graders on a daily basis in a classroom with no air conditioning and teaching U.S. History and the Constitution.  Twenty-two years and the best I could do to explain the two party system was to use a rubber band- stretching it to show the growth of government under Democrats and relaxing it to show the shrinking of government under Republicans.  I thought I was brilliant.  I told my eager pupils that with this scenario we always end up in the middle- with a stable ever-growing economy and peaceful transitions of government from one party to the other.  Things seemed so simple then.  Both parties proposed ideas and directions for the country and the voters expressed their acceptance or rejection at the polls.

Nine years ago, however, something happened.  My world was rocked.  The Founding Fathers with their intelligence and largeness of character rolled over in their collective graves.  One of our parties decided that intelligence, education, communication skills, common sense, and true compassion (not just the word) were no longer necessary to run for high political office.  Now the question of qualification became “Who would you rather have a beer with at a backyard barbecue?”  This was, of course, a trick question since they left out the fact that GW’s alcoholic past only lasted until his early forties meaning that he couldn’t have that beer with you at the BBQ anyway so the point was moot.

The Republicans simply stopped having ideas after eight years of Bush and stopped playing the game by the rules.  They found out why athletes break rules- it’s easier and you can still win.  Their brilliant moment of clarity told them to just shout, say no to everything, use the most inflammatory language you can muster, stay away from the ‘N’ word, only infer it and don’t waste your time developing ideas- if you do a good enough job of tearing down the Democrat you won’t have to work that hard.  The country will turn back to your party because they either want a change or else they’re simply tired of hearing the whining of the children in the small mind party. We’ve all done it- giving in to a screaming, unreasonable child by giving them whatever will shut them up.  They have become the party of Andy Warhol 15 minutes of fame personalities- The Cult of Superficial Personality.

How enthralled we have all been watching the parade of those hoping to become the next “It Girl” for conservatives.  It’s only been 10 months but the list is long:

1. Mitt Romney- Good looks, mildly acceptable personality, some government experience, and then there’s the Mormon problem- it’s a bitch when a portion of your conservative base doesn’t even believe you are a Christian the only way he gets the nomination is if the Repubs realize they have no chance and he becomes the sacrificial lamb so as to not waste another candidate who can actually be elected.  Sort of a la McCain. (46% possibility)

2. Eric Cantor- OMG, he was pushed out front early on and waved like a flag and there were interviews with him and his wife and we were led to believe he might be the Moses (literally) who would lead the conservatives out of the Wilderness- unfortunately we quickly realized that he was a straw man who had little substance and actually sounded as if he were slightly retarded. (42%)

3. Lindsey Graham- Oh please, don’t even get me started. (45% possibility)

4. Mike Huckabee- see above. (40% possibility)

5. The whole “C Street Gang”- Give me a break. We just all love the sweet bunch who wrap themselves in their religious cocoon and continue to break a good portion of the biblical commandments and simply have a house meeting and forgive themselves because they have been told by their leader that they are hand-picked by God for their Congressional seats. Future presidents all of them. (0% possibility)

6. Tim Pawlenty- Yeah, he’s a real possibility.  Young, attractive, governor, not an original idea uttered yet and terrified of taking a stand on anything unless it involves slamming the Democrats.  (45% possibility)

7. Michelle Bachmann- Yeah crazy will get you elected. (10% Possibility)

8. Sarah Palin- Okay, here goes: the thing that tells me she is unelectable is her inability to recognize the fact that she is not capable of being President, a major character flaw.  I’m sure we will find out she is only in it for the money but she’s still thinking about the brass ring and hoping for a ground swell.  (35% Possibility)

9. Bob McDonnell- at least he’s won an election and they are already talking about the Vice-President slot.  They’re not interested in quality and ideas, just winnability.  Unfortunately for Bob his 34 year-old thesis will hurt him with millions of women.

Even though crazy the old familiar faces have been pushed to the rear, people like Gingrich, Buchanan, McConnell, and McCain they continue to bleat unintelligible syllables in an effort to recapture the old heartbeat of the tax-cutting Reaganism.  No one is listening. They’re too bust tuning in to Beck, Limbaugh, Coulter, Ingraham, Savage and others who have no material that doesn’t inflame thehatred of the southern-based evangelical heart of the party.

Again there is something they have overlooked- the ugly head of demographics in an ever-changing face of the electorate.  You didn’t really think they are racially insensitive because of their extreme patriotism did you?  It all has to do with how those new citizens will vote. Sure there may be some defections in the mid-term elections but as long as the Republicans have no new ideas and Democrats vote the result is certain.

Meanwhile, back at the eighth grade history class I always told my students that the strength of the two-party system was that two strong parties offer a choice for the American people, a choice between this and that.  Not a choice between this and WTF !

One obvious clue showing the superficiality of the Conservatives is an examination of the argument always involves money and patriotism.  Never what’s best for the American people, never what’s good for the environment, never what the polls show the American people actually want.  Simply take care of the corporations, the banks, Wall Street and hope that a few crumbs will wander down thru the ranks and help those that were of so much interest to Jesus Christ, the embodiment of the Conservative dogma and ideology.

You gotta hand it to them though.  You have to respect the power and ability of a political party that can convince people throughout the country and heavily in the South that getting them covered by a public health option is a bad thing because they run the risk of being a little too Socialist.  Never mind that complete financial ruin that comes with severe family illness, the break-up of families, kids that can’t go to college, suicides, and general mental trauma experienced by those dealing with family members struck by cancer, alzheimer’s, heart disease and having no obvious way to pay for expensive treatment.

Keep it up Republicans, the country is going nowhere with your lack of ideas and obstructionism, but at least at the age of 58 I seem safe in the belief that there will be a Democrat majority for the rest of my life.  Perhaps we can actually get something done, or, maybe we’ll just elect Dick Cheney in 2012 and just hope it all works out. WTF  !!

By Ron Sebestik

One man’s trash…

(This is a repost from a blog I wrote on June 4, 2007)
Early Monday morning about 1:30am, my friend Kevin and I were sitting in my apartment talking and browsing the Internet when I suddenly had an idea for a picture that I wanted to shoot. I got up and headed out to my car to get my tripod and when I stepped outside I looked up at the clear night sky with an near full moon shining as bright as ever and was taking my time as I was enjoying the coolness of the night. I happened to glance over to my right and noticed that the area just down the road near where the trash dumpsters are seemed unusually well lit for there not being that adequate of a light source nearby. I stepped out a little farther in the road to catch a better glimpse at what might be illuminating the area and noticed that a car was parked facing the dumpsters with it’s lights on. At first I thought, “no big deal, someone probably just dropping someone off for the evening” and went about my business. I stepped a little farther out and then noticed that a figure moving about from within the dumpster itself. “That’s strange”, I thought. My natural reaction to seeing this was that maybe someone had thrown away something of value that they needed to get back. Having seen the rather comedic appearance of someone with a flashlight rooting through trash naturally appealed to me, so I quickly ran back inside to get my camera and snap a picture of this “dumpster diver”.
When I came back outside after grabbing my camera I noticed that he was already gone. Kevin followed me out this time and offered up the suggestion that perhaps he was driving over to the next dumpster. Kevin went one way, I went the other, and together we plotted a scheme at capturing this guy on film. As I approached the car I suddenly noticed that the diver had a child with him and immeadiately thought to myself that maybe this wasn’t a case of finding something of value that was thrown with the trash, but instead maybe this was a case of survival of a family that was down and out. I continued to approach the car and when I came within distance I asked the gentleman who at this point was standing just adjacent to the dumpster what he was doing. He responded by saying that he does this all of time and that he wouldn’t be much longer. The way in which he said it made me think that things might not be as they had originally and secondly been thought of, so I asked him what it was exactly that he was in search of. He said that was going through the trash to find anything that people might throw away that he might be able to sell. Now this both intrigued me and also irritated me at the same time. I told him that the area was private property and that he was in fact trespassing and also that going through the trash, albeit the belongings of people that had been discarded, could be construed as an invasion of privacy due to the fact that quite a lot of information can be gained just by going through some one’s garbage. He told me that he had already spoken to the police before about the matter and that he was indeed allowed to do so.
After hearing all of this I had the idea of asking him if I might take some pictures of him as I thought it was somewhat interesting that he was actually doing this. I also told him him that I sometimes write articles for my website about odd and interesting happening that I find every once and a while and that I thought this might make a good story. At first he was very skeptical and it was only after assuring him that I would not take any pictures of his son or his face did he agree to allow me to take some pictures. I properly introduced myself to him, and although his name escapes me now, some four hours later, I’ll just call him John.
This is John.
John was thirty-one years old, married with a child and disabled. Since John did not work, he used this as a means to add extra income to his wife’s job for their family.
During his recent excursion through our apartment complexes dumpsters, John found a television and an AIWA tabletop stereo system, that upon inspection, seemed to be in proper working order only needing some attention to cleaning the exterior free from dirt.
John had also found a vacuum cleaner that he would add to his collection of items that people had thrown away in hopes of turning a profit.
Amongst the television, stereo and vacuum, John seemed most proud to find a microwave that someone had tossed.
John said that a lot of the times what he finds is either a hit or a miss, and considering that what he finds is considered trash, I can see where that would ring very true. John asked me if I was familiar with the phrase, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”, and for John, this night seemed to hold quite a bit of bounty for this entrepreneur of waste.
One box that John found contained a rather expensive game controller for a computer.
Some of the items that were thrown out seemed rather unusual items to be trashed, such as stuffed animals.
John said more than likely, items like this would be donated rather than sold.
John had been doing this for about ten years after some friends of his when they were younger were out one night and had gone to a local potato chip factory and and found hundreds of bags of chips in the dumpsters. He said that this gave him the idea that there might be more than just chips to be had. I asked him, and all together John claims to have made about ten to twelve thousand dollars off his decade business endeavor. He has sold items on eBay as well as rummage sales. Some items that John finds he says that he keeps for his own use. He even claimed to have found twenty dollars in a purse that someone had discarded along with a Louis Vuitton purse which allegedly sold for the sum of four-hundred dollars on eBay.
I asked him if there were days of the week which proved to be more fruitful in his finds and he said that Sundays and Tuesdays were the prime days to go searching. John rounds out his searches by splitting up his time throughout various parts of the city spending only a few hours a night doing it and usually wrapping up around three o’clock in the morning.
When I was done taking pictures I stuck around for a few minutes and discussed a little more with him about his unusual occupation and I grew a respect for the man. He seemed to take pride in what he does and I must admit, I admire him for doing so. We discussed the American dream and how that it seemed to be a dream that fades a little quicker each morning after waking up, but it’s people like John that recognize that it is a dream that can be lived out in a number of different ways. Some people achieve it behind the desk of a corporate office, some in the field of service, and some in the middle of the night with a flashlight and the hopes that the things we no longer need will soon become the things that pays the bills.
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