comedy, My favorites

Performance, Therapy, Science

I began performing because it was an opportunity to be sure that people were listening, and I kept performing because it was therapeutic to hear and see reactions to me. It was why I enjoyed comedy – it was why I was only able to do things that made an audience laugh or cry. They were the only performances that were really therapeutic because without a guttural reaction to watch as a response to me I couldn’t be sure that people were listening.

A girl transferred out of the democratic cooperative k-12 school that I volunteer in, and we held an appreciation circle.

1st. Whatever intention I had of rebelling against my parents’ vegan, swedish, kibbutz, health-food, anti-war, gender bending hippie upbringing has obviously been quelled.

2nd. About 3/4 of the way around the circle a boy began crying.

Height: 6’2″
Height with hair: A Little Too Much
Weight: 235lbs
Muscle Weight: Not Enough
Glasses Size: Smaller Would Have Been Better
Humor: Above Average
Sadness: Even More Above Average
Ability To Write Poetry: Good. He’s 16 Years Old, So, Don’t Stick With It For Too Much Longer, But, Y’know, Stick With It For Now
Ability To Care: Great
Coolness At A Regular School (Out of 100): 32
Coolness At The Commune/Child Labor/Educational Environment That I Volunteer At (Out of 100): 79

The amount he cared about this girl that was leaving was touching. Obviously. Also. We all understood that the genuineness of his tears was embarrassing. How we reacted to that embarrassment was different. A group of kids laughed. A group of kids defended. A group of kids ignored. A group of kids gave sympathetic looks. I cried.

It just looked like so much fun.

I think that’s why laughing and crying are so appealing to me. We think of laughing and crying as being extensions of smiling and frowning, but I see more in common with yawning. Real laughing and crying is an uncontrollable reaction – something that happens because you had to despite your best efforts not to. This lack of control is appealing. It is something we as humans are rarely faced with. Its rarity is the cause for our obsession with fate, our fixation on addiction, and our creepy interest in psychopaths. More interestingly though, the acts are contagious.

Seeing someone yawn makes you yawn.

Being around laughter makes laughter more socially and emotionally appropriate.

Watching someone cry always makes me cry.

3rd. The superior temporal sulcus (an area of the brain) is strongly activated when you yawn (proof). This part of the brain is connected to understanding the emotions of others and how those may differ from our own (proof). Kids under the age of four and people with autism don’t “catch” yawns (proof). The sounds of others laughing or crying activate the STS as well (proof).

This all implies that when we perceive laughter, crying, or yawning, a similar thing is happening in our brain, and also that that thing that is happening is making us subconsciously want to do laugh, cry, or yawn as well.

3rd(ii)) When a restaurant that I had worked at for a year and met most of my friends at and met my girlfriend at and had been the start of my life in New York City closed I cried. But only when I looked at my friend Claire and saw that she was crying too.

This also implies that there is some subconscious understanding of emotional dissonance ingrained within us as humans – that there is a part of our brain working without our knowledge aimed at finding those moments where emotions overtake our fellow humans and they are simply reacting to their surroundings. And when we are faced with this understanding that others’ emotional reactions are completely separate from our own we seek to correct this – we join them. We yawn because they yawn, we laugh because they laugh, we cry because they cry. We emote because they emote.

I perform because it is therapeutic to watch an audience’s superior temporal sulcus get activated because it will activate my own. I worry they will find a drug that does this chemically and I’ll no longer have to perform.

PS. They have found that the smells from Vanilla and Rotten Eggs activate the STS a little. Makes sense. The only two smells that can make you viscerally frown or smile come from STS activation.

PS(ii). This does imply that if they do find a drug that activates this part of the brain it could cure autism, right?

PS(iii). People with a larger STS have more facebook friends (proof). I think that’s important.

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Indignant, My favorites

Thoughts From a Hardened Criminal: Part IV

I was always embarrassed of my parents because they were very loving and supportive. They would show up to all four performances of the play that I had less than four lines in. When I was reprimanded by the school for performing in the talent show as the co-writer/director/star of a ten minute skit riddled with masturbation jokes my dad stood up and yelled at the staff head of the “hearing committee” for making a sham of the public educational system. I always had more fans in the stands than minutes played at soccer games. They made me an unwilling activist from the age of 10.

My dad was not just a part of every peace protest he was the one at the beginning of every email thread that started every peace protest, and I hated it. It’s embarrassing to get dragged into town on a cold December Saturday to chant “No More War!” because you don’t have plans that allow you to excuse yourself from protesting because you look and talk like you’re twelve and your friends are starting to have sex. And it’s embarrassing to discover your voice cracking at age 16 through screams of “Drop Bush, Not Bombs.” I confused my teenage angst with disgust for the way the movement was run. I was looking for errors in the way we presented ourselves – searching for flaws in the message – claiming a higher understanding of the morality that we were supposedly together to espouse; all because I had delivered upon myself the role of critical thinker – of the prophetical voice of reason in the confused mayhem of longhaired wishful thinkers stuck in an era where they had the ability to change things but didn’t have the internet.

They said: “Show me what democracy looks like.”

I said: “This is what democracy looks like.”

Then in my head I continued: “But was Winston Churchill right? And if this is democracy, is democracy simply a futile exercise ultimately aimed at finding solace in like-minded accompaniment? Is democracy purely a therapeutic activity for a group of individuals needing a loudspeaker on which to hear their voice?”

Fuck Winston Churchill.

Faith is a belief not based on proof or necessarily evidence. I understand the animosity some people have towards it as one of those people, but I think it’s important that we understand that that absence of rationality is linked to the same emotions that make us human. It’s sometimes okay and necessary to release logic. It’s just important to direct that release of logic in a positive direction. Therefore I choose optimism. If I am to have faith, I have it in hope – the idea that improvement is possible. It may be irrational, but it seems to be a reasonable way to improve.

Before this gets too Oprah, I want to tell you what I first saw when I came to Zucatti Park in late October.

There was a vibrant group of individuals no longer concerned with individual goals. Flashbacks to my days in the midst of Vietnam protest veterans at first filled me with trepidation. There were the same telltale signs of futility – signs, songs, and repetition. Repetition was my least favorite. It’s what I always hated about marching down the streets of Bangor, Maine. Someone would yell “No Blood For Oil” and the rest of us would be expected to yell the same, as though we all had the exact same belief on what our oil policies should be. Sure, I agreed with the idea that the blood to oil exchange rate should be zero, but I didn’t think that was the only reason to stop our descent upon Iraq – and I wanted to be welcoming to new people who might slightly disagree. Repetition was the death of discussion. Repetition forced us to masquerade under the false concept that we all believed the same thing.

This repetition was different though.

Repetition was a tool being used to amplify each person’s voice as opposed to being used to simplify a message – forcing a palatability of concept so that the legislators can hear our voice on the news and interpret the changes we want. The trust in our lawmakers had vanished, but the occupiers had reinstated that trust within themselves. They said let’s finally have the conversation we’ve been telling our leaders to have for years.

Within this 33,000 sq. foot rectangle was an open mic, a kitchen, a library, a medical tent, a sanitation department, and people – lots of people: discussing. Still, I felt self-conscious about joining the discussion so I took out my sign and sat down.

It claimed a message that could not be repeated because it was too silly, but I felt it pushed at a deeper truth about the structural issues in our financial system. But most of all: it was my belief. Most people (including most occupiers) don’t believe in the dissolving of our currency system, but it proved to be a conversation starter. I didn’t have to worry about starting discussion because soon discussion came to me – not started by a discussion starting leader, but rather by an environment that encouraged dialogue. A 25 year old after school teacher who had left his job at a bank and I talked about the political movements and image and the importance of a representation in a media environment bred for 24 hour slogan machines. A 43 year old tea party activist from the Midwest and I talked about the role of a government paid for by the people. A day traveler from Philadelphia and I talked about the validity of a wheat and ore strategy in Catan.

We talked. In the past month and a half I have discussed more politics and formed more solutions to our current problems than I had in the rest of my life combined, and that was because of the Occupy Movement. Occupy’s openness to discussion is all the Occupy is about.

Discussion means not focusing on that one detail you don’t like, but rather searching for the details you do like and expanding upon those. Discussion means not interrogating a message until you discover what you disagree with, but rather uncovering the truths you do agree with and providing your perspective. Discussion is an improv game and you need to say “yes, and…”

The world is a terrible place full of hope.

That frustration that comes from the fact that this world is terrible is understandable, but not the end of our journey. You can be a critical thinker that adds to the critical dialogue.

I always assumed I would get arrested at some point in my life. From a young age I understood that laws were not always just, and it would be my duty at some point to stand up against those laws. That was what ran through my head when I got arrested for the first time just over two weeks ago. And all of my fantasies of jail were exceeded. Jail was a just another place for us to occupy. The discussion continued. Join. Join this discussion because it needs your voice – because it wants your voice. But if you join, want other’s to join because this is about hearing – this is about listening. Go get arrested when there are unjust laws because they cannot shut down discussion by putting it in a jailcell.

Our first amendment is freedom of speech because it is the principle our country was founded on, but we have to remember the freedom of speech is also the freedom to listen.

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Media, My favorites, Selfish

My Therapeutic Review of Childish Gambino

My dad attacked me with his hypothesis. This is a sentence that could begin many of my stories, but in this one his hypothesis had clearly evolved from our previous conversation. Yet this conversation is new and, potentially, so mind expanding that you may feel pain from the thought of it. That’s the way conversations with my dad feel: like he’s constantly teaching you a new secret form of mind exercising that he, only now, at this exact moment, feels you are ready for – that you have finally proven to be competent enough for this burden. So, conversation from last night was fodder for mind altering conversation. He approached with his idea of “Genius vs. Talent.”

Talent was what conveyed ideas and Genius was where the ideas were from.

THUS: Childish Gambino. Aka: Donald Glover.

My dislike was born out of like. His taste was so great, and he was a vehicle of such            , but it felt like nothing was behind it. There was no human element. If the truth will set you free, than he was still enslaved by the shackles of his desired self-conception. He wanted to be Tyler the Creator meets Drake meets David Cross. Those are all people I wanted to be so I respected his desires, but with success comes a new formation of desire – a self reflection and understanding that one’s wants must change with one’s current situation. Donald Gambino was obviously talented, but his genius was in question.

Genius comes from a complete and honest awareness and explanation of who you are in your art.

That’s what I thought before. That’s what I assumed was the reason that Gambino’s music resonated hollowly – that I seemed to  echo back hatred. But Childish Glover kept performing his therapeutic self-controlled-self-awareness. And, in a sense, it kept getting better. It got more pointed and controlled. He understood who he was by analyzing who he was. But it was simply therapy. For him, and people who want to be him.

I was sitting shotgun in the car parked in our driveway and my dad turned off the car which turned off the CD of Beatles-Soundtrack-Remix-Cirque-de-Soliel album. I was back in Maine with my financial, artistic, and social tail between my legs. I wanted to make comedy, but didn’t know what that meant. I attacked him with a hypothesis. Art needs an audience, without an audience it was simply therapy. Not that there was anything wrong with therapy, but the lack of public display makes writing, painting, yelling, artistically expressing purely a therapeutic act. He responded with the appropriate defensiveness of a person who has a novel he’s never shared with his only son and has been editing and re-editing for 40 years.

Gambino, Childish is a self-therapist not an artist. I understand that he has an audience. A much larger audience than I have or will ever have. And that jealousy is an important part of my motivation for writing this. Art needs that audience because both audience and artist should be going on a journey of self discovery. CG/DG hogs that journey. He selfishly refuses the audience to join him in self-analysis by covering all basis of self-analysis himself. I say this in order to selfishly self-analyze my own feelings of jealousy toward a pop-icon that was born from New York sketch comedy. He refuses vulnerability/critique by self-congratulatory defenses of his past and future actions. He asks for constant pity in his constant response to the haters when he shouldn’t be fucking bitching because he’s accomplished all of his dreams. His raps are simply cover letters to apply to be your idol, and he seems to be getting the job.

I hated Aaron Kane, but respected him. In middle school I was a crybaby who would trip and fall emotionally every day. The response from my friends was to push me back down emotionally. Aaron always threw himself down before anyone could push him back down and by doing so everyone was satisfied because young boys are only interested in making all of their friends as miserable as possible, and yet he was in control. My response was simply to flail to point out that I had been pushed down because I thought everyone needed to be acutely aware of the actions they were making and supporting. It wasn’t fair that everybody laughed with Aaron and only laughed at me.

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Death, Gender, Lonely, Math, Media, My favorites, race, Socialism

In Which I Qualitate/Quantitate

Don’t read this until you are ready to READ this. By that I mean, click on all links. You don’t have to read them, but they are an important part of the narrative. But do read the last link. It is the most important and is a news story and provides context.

c) I’m pretty sure that everything I think has been thought before.

That is simultaneously comforting and terrifying.

Often times our world is misled by what we think we think though. We then suffer under the great injustice that is our own misconceptions of ourselves. Specifically, the fact that 4 million more people watch Modern Family than The Middle. Both shows analyze the changing definition of the American dream, but one does it through shallow analysis of obvious xenophobia and one does it through thoughtful revelations about the inhumanity inherent in a capitalist society that refuses to empathize with struggle. Modern Family is a person who has not listened’s analysis, The Middle is someone who paid attention’s analysis.

1. I have had arguments with three people who have stated their frustration with the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Each of them went like this:
Them: “I agree with what they’re saying, I just don’t know what they’re saying.”
Me: “Have you been down to Zuccotti Park?”
Them: “No” and a bunch of more words that don’t matter.

2. I have a belief that Taylor Swift is doing the more harm to American society than Lady Gaga – specifically that Taylor Swift is doing the most harm and Lady Gaga is doing the most negative harm (negative used in the mathematical sense). This belief is challenged often. Typically those conversations go like this:
Me: “Don’t ask, don’t tell would have been repealed 3 years earlier if it weren’t for Taylor Swift.”
Them: “That’s ridiculous” They’re right “Lady Gaga isn’t even saying anything. She’s just the same mindless pop that we’ve had forever.”
Me: “Have you heard her new album?”
Them: “Um..” and a bunch of defensive lies about how they have an appropriate sample size that don’t matter.

3.

2. Frankie Heck – Patricia Heaton’s character on The Middle is a true hero of the Michael Moore union version of socialism. She is a lighthouse that shines light through all the cracks in the American Dream. Hard work equals hard work, but having money equals having money. Surrounding her is pain and suffering that is solely the gift of a desire for things she is told she deserves. And yet this could all be solved with a simple sharing of some wealth. It doesn’t need to be opportunity because we don’t all need to the freedom to try. We need the freedom to succeed. And success is not defined by being in the 1%. Then only 1% of us, necessarily succeed. I aim for 100%.

I like to play a game called turn concepts into rants for socialism in as few sentences as possible.

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My favorites, Nostalgia

Nisse Goes To Rural

The back of my woods seems like a safe place to write. Had I artistic intentions as a adolescent this is where I would have wrote. I should make up for lost time. I used to read out here. I once ran neck first into a newly installed electric fence because King Arthur’s journeys were so enthralling. The tree I sit in now was the homebase of my reading adventures. I had built ladders up to branches of the tree. By “I” I mean Alf, my mother’s father, Morfar. By ladders I mean that on one side is a series of skinny tree trunks nailed together to look like set dressing for a movie about gnomes. Hanging from the other side is a rope and two by four creation that could easily act as a 4th grade science project explaining the pulley in an interesting way for fellow classmates of the wilderness academy. The project would have gotten a C+.

This tree became a key point in my detour walk created in defiance of the concept of paths. This detour was not created by me, but co-opted by me in a self deprecation act of declaring equality to animals. An act that correlates to deer droppings lining the path in front of me as I mount the gnome ladder.

It’s an animal trail and it sucks, but it meets up with the real trail, surrendering its usefulness to an overgrown fern path surrounded by a thicket of maple, birch, and cedar all on the verge of death. I’m walking down the hallway of a retirement community for poor trees, but upon collapse they serve nicely as bridges that might be accidental. I know they were stacked next to each other over boggy areas as protection for a traveler’s feet, but without that knowledge, an outside viewer might question the concept of coincidence as these fallen trees seem to create a perfect path across moss. How beautiful is nature that even the members of its collective who’s life ceases to exist maintain their worthwhileness? An ignorant but well meaning wilderness wanderer would remark at the sight of these purposely placed bridge-trees. In front of me is the environment of discovery, centered around what looks like a the ruins of a sad native tribe, one who consisted on berries and their salamander recipe known only to he four archaeologists who studied these people and the twenty annoyed friends who had to bear through stories of the ingenuity of the extinct tribe whenever salamanders were brought up in conversation. Luckily that was rarely.¹

I know this to be my 7 year old version’s attempt at a fort. My mom probably helped me build it. She’s from a tribe of Swedes whose ingenious methods of putting wood together comes from a poverty induced lack of childhood toys and a rural induced plethora of childhood trees. The roof has caved in, in what would sprained the ankle of one of its three inhabitant if this truly were an archaeological discovery that I was in the midst of.

I scream.

The scream was not blood curdling, but it was the type of scream that you wouldn’t put in your blood because just by smell you could tell it might curdle. It was the type of scream you’d only use if it were too late to buy other screams and you only had beer and blood cereal in the house and it was just not the type of blood cereal that you ate dry.

The scream was because of a frog. The frog had leapt into my path, and then out of my path. A path that I had considered too mainstream as a 10 year old and had to create a detour homed a frog.

In Brooklyn, the home I now call home a man walked across 4th ave into the establishment at which I barista. I barista because I’ve baristad – a past tense verb that does not imply that I know how to spell the correct past tense verb to describe my former and current employment. The man was spewing both in literal act and in reference to the vitriol with which a racist diatribe came out of his mouth. Also possibly in reference to the way in which he attempted to pay for a small coffee with an assortment of change from his pocket. He was $0.15 short, but the $0.15 was a small price to pay to help a man full of spew get on with his day and life and therefore get out of my day and life as quickly as possible. I didn’t scream.

1. Adverbs!

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Attention Whoring, comedy, Indignant, Lazy, My favorites, Pathetic, Selfish

Honesty: My Excuse

I’m often reassured that I’m the only one that enjoys myself. The mirror is the only audience I respect because it is the only audience that reacts appropriately to my misfortune. I see myself as powerless not because I aspire to be the victim, but because I aspire to fit in with the majority’s perception.

These oversimplifying statements of self deprecation mixed with self pleasure aimed at analyzing my neuroses are necessary cathartic lies.

After every sentence I want to stop writing because it feels like saying anything more would be giving too much away – taking away the journey that a reader has the opportunity to go on and making them see what you see as an author, as a creator of this story that you are supposed to paint a picture of because you have taken up the responsibility of leading this audience and asked to be paid attention to – to take time away from others’ lives in order to participate in your own because you believe your’s to be far superior, at least for the time being, and with that great demand comes great obligation to maintain enjoyment, but isn’t giving them, the audience, an invitation to join you as the creator the most selfless way to enjoy an art with someone? Probably not.

I ask myself stupid questions about when form and message intersect because I’m a stupid person with stupid thoughts. My answer is always that they do, but typically it is not a premeditated desire. In my case it is nearly always an accident. I’m still pleased with the result.

My work is almost always reddild with mistakes. ecause I only want to write about what I’m writing aboute. I start feeling dishonest when I’m presented art that has been edited. If that art is about me, ten it must be about me. I typed this entrie paragraph with my eyes losed.

Mrs. McIntire was my typing teacher in high school. Later she would become the vice principal for a year, but for now she only taught typing – a class where maintaining a watchful eye over child-soldiers completing mindless, useless tasks is your only duty. I was and am a good typer (or typist depending on which one is correct) and was/am able to complete my tasks at such a speed that large portions of class time would be/are dedicated to me finding other ways to occupy my time besides staring at completed assignments. This led to the game Wiz3. Whose instructions read/read: Guide Wizio the Wizard as he journeys through a magical land. Collect the potions as you go to create spells that will help you on your way. Use the keys to enter locked doors and hidden treasures. Throw the levers to get to reveal new routes and bonuses. It was a great game that I played/play well and played/play loudly. I liked/like perceiving the anger Mrs. McIntire directed towards my playing loudly as jealousy towards my playing well. That made/makes the competition more fun. She won/wins of course. She was/is the teacher. She instituted/institutes a rule wherein every time a student finished an assignment she would have to check over their entire homework before they could play games. Those two minutes of class where she would be/is hunched over my shoulder breathing in my oxygen displaying my total inability for full control were the worst two minutes of school every day.

I struggle with tense often in my writing, which I think is because I’m never sure whether I’m reliving by writing or perceiving by writing. My biggest struggle with writing is which version of myself am I. Since I can only comprehend the idea of writing through a self-manufactured lens that looks upon myself, my goal becomes to bend the funhouse mirror in a new and interesting shape. It’s selfish: the inability to focus the mirror elsewhere, but focusing it elsewhere sounds mean. Maybe that person doesn’t want to see themselves in a funhouse mirror. I’ll take the bullet. The selfish bullet.

I worry that humans won’t exist when I die, but that’s only because I define humans as me.

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Gender, Indignant, My favorites, Socialism

The Worst People in the World Were on the F-Train

She had gotten a salt bagel with hummus because “we’re in New York, honey” but now the hummus was spilling out the sides. As her jaw clenched around her breakfast, the bagel clenched and the ground garbanzo oozed outwardly.

“Here, honey”

He began uncrumpling the white paper bag that their Brooklyn experience had been served in. He blew into the bag to open it. This did nothing besides convince himself that he had helped.

“Put this under your bagel.”

He handed her the bag turned cumbersome bib proud that he had figured out his own what all New Yorkers had to be taught when they started eating bagels for breakfast at 4 years old.

“Wait.”

He explained his new realization that the age old bag under the bagel could be improved by tossing napkins in the bottom of the receptacle to soak up the excess bagel filling. He didn’t explain his even newer realization that this made no sense and was completely unnecessary because he was still on a high from improving on being a native New Yorker.

He thought about how “He kissed her” is a really nice sentence, but “she kissed him” seems scary. Before he had to worry about this anymore he decided it best to kiss her on the cheek and also offer his seat to a woman riding the subway alone. SHE was 40 years old and able to stand for HERself. Obviously it was necessary for HIM to find a place for the bag full of napkins and preparation for excess hummus that never occurred and the three shopping bags of Macy’s items. His bag of napkins was proving difficult to store appropriately as it was a little greasy and he was worried about leaving a grease stain on the subway floor.

He worried that a real New Yorker would have just carried the bag instead of shoving it face down under the seat where the grease stain would be less bothersome to other subway passengers. Then he was distracted by watching his girlfriend’s nose point at his navel.

“Why’d you do that?”

She responded to his poking of her nose accompanied by an exclamation of “boop!” He wanted to tell her “because we’re in New York,” but he knew that that didn’t make any sense. Maybe it was just vacation that was making him so giddy, he thought as he retook his seat that he had given up out of chivalry. Luckily he didn’t have time to think as another woman was standing alone. SHE was nearly 60 years old probably, though it was hard to tell with the Asians. He knew this wasn’t a very New York thing to do (standing up for two different people on a subway ride), but there were somethings that just needed to be universal.

“Or either of you.”

He didn’t really understand why the man wanted to take his seat while the woman didn’t, but maybe it was an Asian thing.

“Oh my god.”

She mouthed to herself but within vision of her boyfriend to express how strange it was to sit next to an old smelly Asian man on the subway. It’s too bad she had to marry someone so nice, but at least her parents liked him.

 

I have an obligation to society, that if society gives me more, then I must give more. And to those given least by society, we give more. I once argued with a woman in a bar I was working about chivalry and she questioned my lack of chivalry by asking if I would stand up for a woman in heels after a long day of work, to which I countered “would you stand up for a man in heels?” Let’s please be understanding of the things we give. That if the real distinction to be made is between person in heels and person in flats, then let’s not associate that with anything else even if they are correlated. My favorite first year statistics lesson is the lesson on correlation where the student is asked to think about why we can’t exclaim that ice-cream cures the common cold because there are less cases of the common cold when more people are eating ice-cream. The student rightfully ascribes both the lack of ice-cream eating and virility of the common cold virus to the common cold outside. Therefore correlation and causality are not the same. Therefore ice-cream does not cure the common cold. Therefore person in heels does not equal woman. Therefore getting up for a woman on the subway does not equal getting up for a person society has forced to feel a need to be gotten up for. It is fine to treat different genders differently as long as it is countering the difference that those genders are treated by society. Also: understand: historical prospective. That as a straightwhiteman I have been given opportunities that others have not, and therefore – especially if we are not going to allow our governments to redistribute power through socialism – I have a obligation to society to give more back to members of society – specific members of society.

 

I bet you that they had aspirations to be in a country club.

 

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