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You Can Call Me Al


JOURNAL : 12.14.20

It’s time to stop pretending like the person married to the President of the United States is a de facto housewife in charge of place settings, guest lists and curtains, or a woman of leisure in need of a hobby. Let’s do it while the President’s spouse is still a woman, and break with this ridiculously arcane tradition.

Maybe the Republican women will continue to need something to do, but the Democrats are just as qualified for the job as their husbands, some maybe more so. Not to mention that presumably at some point we will actually elect a woman and her spouse might not be into dinner planning and pet projects. Or maybe they will be. 

You Can Call Me Al

I am a stepfather. I married a women with three, small children and chose never to have any additional. So I was never Dad, always David. As the kids got older and their friends would come over to the house, I was never Mr. McCarty, I was still David. 

I presume that this was due to not having the same last name, they likely didn’t even know my last name, as well as my stepchildren assuming that’s simply what I was called. I’m sure the other kids asked what they should call me and my kids shrugged and replied, “David.” 

What else would I be called?

This has always bothered me and looking back I should have done it differently but I was in my late twenties and didn’t know any better. I should have had a nickname, the way grandparents pick one for themselves. Instead I allowed them to go with Al, like I was the butcher, or my wife’s third boyfriend. 

It’s been 25 years. They’re all grown and have their own kids. I’m Grandie now to the little ones, but I’m still David to the kids and it still bothers me.

Do You Take This Man’s Name?

I feel like gay couples who marry are missing out on the tradition of taking a single surname. Obviously it’s problematic in same sex couples, because there is not the obvious paternalistic idea of the woman taking the man’s name, but they could work it out. Maybe no one can agree on whose name to choose. Why fight about that?

But I vaguely miss the idea you are Mr and Mrs Smith. A single unit. Can you he Mr. and Mr. Jones or Mrs. and Mrs. Johnson? I guess that would give you the same name, there being no gender designation to set you apart. But instead of coming up with something else, we have just abandoned it. Maybe that’s best. As Tim Minchin says, “Just because an idea is tenacious doesn’t mean it’s true.” He was talking about religion, but still.

Since gender is being dismantled, maybe that’s next on the chopping block anyway. No more Mr. No more Ms. Seems a shame. Personally, I don’t want to be genderless. 

Donald The Dragonslayer

It’s beyond ridiculous what amounts for praise from President Trump’s loyal supporters. They can’t actually point to any real accomplishment or positive character attribute, so they invent a narrative out of whole cloth, pure fiction in the form of a hero they can worship. 

Trump is his own golden calf, created in the image of a god, or at least an admirable man, but objectively a strange, powerless symbol for inducing awe and reverence. An insecure, overweight coward who wears makeup and I’ll-fitting suits, in his Faustian pursuit of being adored while constantly being ridiculed instead.

I saw an article today in my newsfeed titled, “Donald The Dragonslayer.” It was on Real Clear Politics, a site which used to carry a certain amount of weight in political circles as being at least a serious polling aggregator site, but that has, during the Trump era, shifted significantly into a new realm of what can only be described as magical thinking.

RCP claims to be an independent news organization, but this particular commentary isn’t based in any sort of objective reality. It’s fan fiction at best. A fantastical retelling of history with an unhealthy dose of wishful thinking. It’s porn for the deplorables. Deplorable porn.

Crimes, Lies and Audiotapes

Twitter is sparkling this morning with a flurry of activity concerning whether or not President Trump might pardon Edward Snowden, the former CIA subcontractor that leaked highly-classified information concerning the NSA’s illegal wiretapping of US Citizens, not to mention that embarrassing details of our eavesdropping on our own allies.

Snowden is a strange case in that his supporters, as well as his critics, seem to cross all manner of ideological spectrums and partisan divides. People on both side view him as a patriotic national hero or a treasonous snake, depending on their take on the matter.

The Left is either upset for what they see as the one-sided nature of Wikileaks to discredit Democrats while allowing Republicans to pretty much skate free, or they view him as a whistleblower who alerted the world to the Orwellian nature of data collection in our digital age. The Right views him as much the same. Either a patriot or a traitor, depending on how they view the situation.

It’s kind of nice, that when it comes to national security, there is a situation where we are not entirely split on partisan lines but have actual differences of opinions, and not of fact. Although given recent history, it makes me question all of it. 

If there are no consequences to breaking the law, what is the point of having classified information. If there are no protections for whistleblowers, what is to stop the government from going off the rails and violating our trust? It’s not an easy, or simple, issue.

But I would typically err on the side of more transparency and less secrets.

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

Mark Twain

There is a lot of discussion about the motivations of people like Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Reality Winner. Frankly, I don’t think it matters why they did it. Sometimes it’s going to be harmful for one political party or the other. That’s someone else’s problem. The fact is, that none of these people did anything then reveal what someone else said or did. It’s not their fault it was hurtful or embarrassing to this group or that. 

Mark Twain once said that if you always tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything. Maybe we keep that in mind occasionally and operate in better faith.

Arguing In The Paint With Toddlers

I keep thinking about this, mostly because of the various arguments on social media, but more often than not, I like to explore the intricacies of the grey areas in our culture, rather than the big technicolor issues. I feel like there are a lot of people talking about the big issues. Plenty of opinions on the major matters of the day. Where I get into it, are the subtleties of the argument. 

Meaning, I am often making a comment about the dogmatic underpinnings of a liberal argument that I feel is being overly simplified, not grossly misrepresented, and what I get in response is either agreement from the right (which I don’t want) or pushback from the Left, lumping me in with the clueless conservatives. 

It goes with the territory obviously, so it’s to be expected. My point is, I’m usually coming at it, not from across the divide, but from a slightly different perspective on the same side.

Photo by Justin Leibow on Unsplash

I am also much more interested in calling bullshit on my own people, my own team, my own side in the larger arguments, then on fighting with the opposition. The idea of commenting on the unhinged break from reality that is the current Republican Party seems like a huge waste of time. You’re either preaching to the choir, or talking to a wall. That’s not productive. 

When I’m writing, I’m assuming the people who will read what I have to say, already agree with me on the majority of things, namely science, facts, truth and reality. But I might have a problem with how they’re representing certain aspects of our shared reality.

Trying to convince Trumpers that their Boy-King is not, in fact, a heroic Dragonslayer, is like trying to convince a four year old that Santa Claus isn’t real. What’s the point?

The Fox Has An Axe To Grind

It’s a mistake to think that Republicans are ever going to allow their constituents to view anything the Democrats do with anything but suspicion and derision. Fox News has a vested interest in a constant and persistent reign of terror, otherwise who would tune it? If they’re not getting you all worked up, what’s the point. The same reason liberals watch Rachel Maddow. No one is tuning in to hear about how well it’s all going for 45 minutes of programming and 15 minutes of advertising.

So you might as well drop this naive belief that anything a Democratic administration does is going to translate into anything positive for the other side. If Americans have any interest in holding onto a constitutional Republic, we’re going to have to fight for it.

There are no ties in a zero-sum game. There are winners and losers. Republicans are playing a zero-sum game and they have no intention of losing, gracefully or not. They must be beaten.

Seamus Smiled

Seamus smiled. Seamus was a dog. A very good dog. The best dog I ever had. He was a Shepherd/Chow mix and he got the all the best parts of whatever was in that genetic soup of canine DNA he acquired from his rather wayward mother. 

Seamus napping.

He was the most agreeable dog. Not terribly needy but always there. Protective but friendly. Easy going. Curious. Youthful till the end. He smiled, constantly. You could say it was his resting face. Seamus smiled.

Seamus was his given name but he had many names, and many curious ethnicities. Shay-shay. Shadle Rabinowitz, and Shameous The Chicken Slayer (he only did it the one time but the name stuck) to name but a few. My wife, who the grandchildren call Uppie, is a world-class nickname giver. Especially when it comes to animals and babies. I named the dog Seamus, and she called him everything but. 

Seamus had a theme song, borrowed from the Dukes of Hazzard, that went, “Just a good ‘ol dog, never meanin’ no harm. Been in trouble with the law since the day he was born.” We sang it to him all the time and he loved it. 

Seamus left us a few days after my birthday.

About the author

David Todd McCarty

David Todd McCarty is a writer, director, photographer and cinematographer. He writes fiction and nonfiction essays as well as journalism. You can see his commercial work at http://www.hoppingfrogstudios.com

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Writer | Journalist | Storyteller


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