Offended, Yes; Apology? Don’t Bother

Where did people get the idea that they were born with the right to go through life un-offended? And with that question I proudly proclaim “Tonight I rant and rave!”

Here’s the thing. There are over 6 billion, BILLION I say!, people in this world. It is a statistical impossibility that all 6 billion plus will agree on everything. This should be self -evident. Any reasonable person should logically assume that others will feel differently and will be passionate about expressing at least one belief that is at odds with the beliefs of those who find themselves offended by others expressing their beliefs.

Now, having laid such groundwork I submit to you the fact that a demanded apology is worthless. While I feel that freedom of speech extends to the right to demand an apology, I wonder why people bother at all. You were offended. You fussed and whined and spouted the fact that you disagree and are hurt. In most cases the offender is some public figure and no one you even personally know. This person, in the interest of damage control and public image, issues a retraction of their expression and apologizes. Have you changed this person’s mind? I seriously doubt it. Have you put pressure on them and caused them, in the interest of the preservation of personal peace, to say sorry? Yes. Mission accomplished? Certainly not. Chances are this person still believes exactly the thing they stated that offended you.

What, in a situation wherein you find yourself offended, should you do? Get over it. Come to grips with the fact that other people will have their own views and, while those views may be morally reprehensible, they are the beliefs that the other person will hold whether you like it or not. And in all sensibility, do they not have the right to believe differently and express such a sentiment? After all, you’ve demonstrated the fact that you disagree which will likely offend the one who offended you. If you have the right to express your beliefs, why not they? Are you (keep in mind I’m using “you” metaphorically, referring to anyone to whom the described scenario applies) above the rules to which you seek to hold everyone else? I find such an idea quite offensive and if you feel otherwise I refuse to demand that you apologize.

There are some beliefs, such as racism, sexism and many an other ism, that should not be tolerated. On the flip side, there are other beliefs that shouldn’t be a catalyst for strife. I’ve seen people referred to as idiots because they each preferred a different automobile manufacturer. Really? You drive yours, they’ll drive theirs. What’s the problem? Has anyone ever been forced to drive a vehicle manufactured by an offensive manufacturer? Surely such a situation has occurred in the rich history of Humankind, however, does it really matter? How traumatic could such a situation possibly be? There are of course exceptions. Imagine a brute forcing one, at gunpoint, to drive an offensive car. Such would certainly be cause for a claim of undue stress. The rental company being unable to provide you an un-offensive brand, however, is no real cause for concern. Consider those who haven’t the luxury of being able to be offended by a certain car because they are too busy trying not to be killed by anarchists.

Perhaps the previously describe scenario is a bit extreme. Let it serve as a parable of sorts. Be thou not offended by that which matters not! Thus saith the reasonable individual. One real life anecdote and I’ll silence my keyboard for now. I worked in a place once where a co-worker was unable to eat his lunch indoors. A different co-worker found the smell of his lunch, which was tuna, offensive. This fish favoring fellow couldn’t enjoy his lunch inside. He had to eat outside, facing many a threat. He could’ve been rained on, hailed on, tornadoed or accosted by hungry pigeons, depending on the day. This man had to endure the threat of undue danger due to one who was offended by a product of nature. Nature! The one thing we must all accept due to the lack of any other choice. This man was offended by the lack of regard he was accorded. Despite this, he faithfully stepped outside, day after day, to partake in an uncomfortable and dangerous afternoon repast. How, I ask you, is this right? By way of answer I say simply, it isn’t. But he never complained because he understood that his expression, although perfectly within his rights, was pointless. Wah wah humanity has won and such should not be so.

I bid you adieu and a don’t.

Adieu…consider that others may be just as offended by your taking offense as you are at the thing that offended you.

A don’t…demand apologies. In such ways you only demean yourself.

As Yet Untitled; A Dabble in Short Fiction

All is lost. The natives gather outside the walls and though I cannot hear them, I hear the screaming of their captives. Tortured screaming. It howled through these stone halls, echoing, repeating their anguish back to me even after they had themselves fallen silent.

I have retreated. The cold silence of the basements allows me to listen to the only voice that matters and that voice demands penance. Of course I will comply. There is no doubt of that. The only doubt to be found is in my own head. Even as I carry out my ablutions I wonder. As the lashes tear my back to shreds I question the voice that handed down my sentence. Does my Lord really require this of me? My blood spatters to the floor first in droplets then in rivulets that traverse my buttocks and legs to pool onto the cold stone and I wonder when I shall achieve forgiveness.

Not yet. Not yet, for the whispered “scourge” that set me to this work now cries out “Penance!” I snap the whip faster, harder and I am beyond pain. I now feel only a numbing warmth on my back and a tingle in my fingertips as my wrist snaps the leather throngs over my shoulders. The snags of glass become tangled in my scalp and pull free a stubbled patch of flesh. I watch as it swings back, one with the scourge, to mix with the raw meat of my back…

I suppose in my weakness I gave up. I am on the floor now and having no light I know naught of the passage of time. I have fallen short, but some satiation has been achieved. The cry for penance is now but a dull bleating. “Scourge, scourge…” it chants, barely a whisper. I am sorry my Lord, if Lord is who you are, but the flesh is weak.

I stumble up dark stairways and down deserted passages until the darkness blends with weak sunlight, the utter black softening to a dirty gray. This is as high as I dare ascend, but it is high enough. The door stands before me and as the heavy plank swings on its hinges I feel a twinge of remorse. Remorse for what could have, and probably should have, been.

My head swoons as I pick up my quill and I steady it in my free hand. Tears of remorse fall as I scratch the last few words onto the parchment bound between slabs of wood before me.

Fear held us back, I write, my shaking hand fouling some of the letters, It has come to this, that I give myself willingly over to them. It could have been different for, as it is written, what have we to fear considering who stands for us? You who come after, know that we failed. But have the faith to at least try to follow the path of righteousness for success cannot be any worse than the fate you shall meet if you fail.

I sign my name to the page and wait a moment for the ink to dry. When it is done I close the book and spill the remaining ink onto the floor. All that must be written has been written. I don’t expect that the natives will ever enter this building now that we all are gone, so my only concern for the book is that the wind could somehow spill the ink onto the pages. Otherwise, assuming others aren’t too many years in coming, the volume should be quite safe.

They take me into their arms as I stumble through the gate into their midst. Their white painted faces show some degree of concern and the help me to a bed of leaves they’ve prepared. They place me prone upon it and to my back are applied salves of herbs which burn before they begin to soothe. I drift out of consciousness, the last sounds I hear are the cluckings of their tongues as they calmly converse in their odd language.

I don’t know how long I’ve slept, but when I awake my back is free of pain and some of my strength has returned. A man clad in a scant wrapping of skins notices my stirring and he helps me to sit up. He turns to the fire burning in the center of a ring of the strange men and as he walks towards it I become aware of four things. There is something steaming over the fire. This something smells delicious and causes many reactions within my mouth and stomach. There are familiar faces on the far side of the fire and though I do not see happiness in their faces, the faces are less haggard than they were before they were taken.

The native man returns to me with a bark bowl filled with some sort of stew. I reach for it with my left hand only to find that my arm ends in a stump above the elbow. I am at first confounded by this, my mind still muddled with the clouds of deep sleep. When I remember where I am I take the bowl with my right hand instead. I sip of the broth, slowly, and when my body’s reaction is not objectionable I shamelessly guzzle it, storing chunks of meat in my cheeks to chew once the broth is gone. When I do bite into meat, I gag at first noting that the flavor is sweeter than I expected. I almost retch it up, but a wind sighs from the jungle and on its wings floats a single, barely audible word, “Penance…”

My stomach calms. I swallow the meat, giving thanks for the strength it will give me. I spit out one of my knuckles. I should probably suck the marrow from the bone but I haven’t fully given myself over to it yet. Anyway, my captors will keep me healthy enough until the time comes that they have no other option but to kill me.

The man who fed me returns and refills my bowl. He collects my knuckle bone and puts it into his own mouth. When we have all finished eating he changes my bandages and lashes me to a tree. As the natives fade into the jungle I gaze at the faces of my brothers across the small clearing from me. They all have both legs and are only missing bits of arm. The jungle here must be providential. I sit as comfortably as I can and try to sleep, avoiding thoughts of how long it will be until they have nothing left to eat but my brain and innards.

I awake to the sound of screaming. The natives are taking a few of my horrified brother’s fingers to season their soup. I close my eyes and enjoy the smells and sounds of the camp until dinner is done. As I eat I ponder my brothers and when they will come to be at peace with our atonement. It cannot but hurt their minds to dwell on it all.

Simians and A Revolutionary Traitor: Co-Conspirators in an Attack on Culinary Sensibility

I’ll try to be short winded again this time. We shall see how it goes.

I’ve developed a partial menu for a horrible restaurant. I wish to pepper these odd selections in amongst more normal fare in the hopes that people will not bother to notice the details of the stranger offerings and will jab a finger at one or the other of my putrid creations without looking too closely.

The first of my macabre dishes is Eggs Benedict Arnold. It is exactly the same as Eggs Benedict with the notable exception of being made with eggs that have turned. If you are unfamiliar with this usage of the word turned I shall educate you. When used in reference to edibles, saying that an ingredient has turned indicates that the product has spoiled. Most certainly using rotten eggs will make quite a traitorous dish. The stench of foul fowl will accost the nostrils most regrettably and the ingestion of turned eggs will cause turning of the stomach and a most boisterous moving of the bowels. As horrible as the dish must taste, the pun is delectable and I delight in thinking of it.

As a dessert I’ll offer Rhesus Pieces. While phonetically this menu item makes one think of candy coated peanut butter, the spelling of the first word indicates a much more sinister treat. I haven’t decided yet if the bits of Rhesus monkey will be cooked. Perhaps I will coat them in colorful candy to further the possibility of at least one piece being eaten.

Now that I think of it I’ll not place these items on my menu. I will instruct my wait staff to offer, only and always, these two selections as specials of the day. In this way the diner has only the words of the server to lean upon. Social convention generally dictates that it is impolite to question what one has heard, although there are of course exceptions to this rule and some will ask for clarification. Others will not be so lucky, and I shall delight in their misery as I’m carted off to jail and my establishment is condemned.

And with that I proclaim “Mission accomplished!” I have succeeded in being fairly short winded. It has left my system and my next post need have no restrictions on word count. I bid you adieu and a don’t.

Adieu…keep an eye out for new restaurants in your area.

A don’t…ever take a servers recommendation if there is any doubt as to whether or not I own the restaurant.

Wrapping Paper: Innocent Tradition or Sinister Conspiracy?

I fear I have but few words to say this time around. Perhaps this is for the best although I wouldn’t trust it. Longwindedness seems to stalk me and what I expect to be a scant few sentences turns into several paragraphs. By way of evidence, I present this introduction. Now to the heart of the matter.

I find that it is very true that the cheaper the product the lesser the quality. This extends even to such fragile things as wrapping paper. Here is a product that must simply be opaque and easily torn. This two-fold design is easily achieved with the application of heavy inks to thin paper, or so I assume, I am not myself a wrapping paper producer or aficionado.

With all that said, I now offer proof that the wrapping paper producers seek to teach us to buy the more expensive product. Would you assume, as I do, that it is cheaper to manufacture an easily ripped paper? Assuming you assume as I do can we not further assume that the more cheaply manufactured paper would be sold more cheaply? And if we assume this we may safely assume that a wrapping paper less prone to tearing would be more expensive (and more nonsensical) to make and therefore cost the consumer more.

Keeping these assumptions in mind I ask that you journey with me to the past. Our destination; my oldest daughter’s fifth birthday party. I wrapped her presents in paper from a dollar store. She opened the presents from other guests with ease, however when she got to mine she was unable to tear the paper. I offered to get it started for her and I had to get the scissors out to do that. The stuff just wouldn’t rip. It was like a fruit snacks package that has been improperly machined and arrives in your house without the standard factory installed easy tear notch in the top corner. It made me angry, although I was careful not to foul my daughter’s party with demonstrations of rage.

Years have passed now and the rage has faded but the lesson has not. That lesson is that money is the root of all evil. I suspect that wrapping paper manufacturers produce the easy to tear paper as well as the kind that could be used to make safety deposit boxes in the same factories. They sell the latter at a cheaper price, enforcing the adage about getting what you pay for. They take some loss, but the practice drives us to buy the more expensive paper so that the gifts we give and receive may be enjoyed.

I’m sure we’ve all seen holiday displays at banks and stores with stacks of “presents” under beautiful trees. We assume they are empty boxes festively wrapped to invoke feelings of contentment and the cheer of the season. I submit to you that in actuality these are not “presents”, rather they are presents. Note the lack of quotations enclosing the final word in the previous sentence. They are forsaken gifts, unopened because someone gave all they had for the perfect token of love and spent their last few cents on a bit of paper to remain in compliance with tradition. After many hours of tugging and scratching, after fingernails have given way to open beds of bloody quick and tears of pain and anguish have been shed, these unopenables were tossed away causing, along with a decision to never buy the cheap stuff again, a need to purchase a new gift. The gift manufacturer then certainly spreads the cheer by offering to the paper maker a small kick back.

Once again I’ve rambled on much longer than expected. I bid you adieu and a don’t.

Adieu…Purchase gifts and paper in separate trips. Use different methods of payment if possible. This should confound their efforts to track the necessity of a kickback.

A don’t…request a gift receipt. My hope is that this will further confound and, fingers crossed, fustigate them as well.

Voted or Vetoed, Wear it Proudly

If we, as responsible citizens, are proud to share our participation in the democratic process by wearing a sticker proclaiming “I voted” after committing the patriotic act, shouldn’t the President, ideally America’s most responsible citizen, be afforded the same opportunity to display his pride in his participation in the process that makes our nation work?

I think the answer is obviously yes. But how can he do this in a manner that is noticeable without being obscenely obvious? He makes speeches on policy and the state of the union. He presses flesh and at least pretends to be interested in the will of the American people. News programs tell us of his trips to visit foreign dignitaries and of their visits with him. There is coverage of White House dinners and even his personal life is the subject of public scrutiny, but all these are to be expected. These are very visible bits of his job and they are the Presidential norm. We are not at all surprised to see such things from our Commander in Chief. In fact, if we were to be deprived coverage of these activities perhaps we’d be a bit concerned that the man in the Oval Office wasn’t up to the task. I’m sure he enjoys his privacy but this is one of the sacrifices he must make and one we all expect from the highest of public servants.

So, what can he do? What is that extra little bit of outside-the-box thinking that could reassure us that our President is, in fact, working hard behind the scenes to make our country a better place to live and work and raise our children? The answer is quite simple and would resound nicely with the American people. He just needs to be given an “I vetoed” sticker to wear upon his lapel every time he exercises his patriotic right. Not only would this help him appear as nothing more than a normal citizen of the United States doing his duty it would also reassure his countrymen (and women) that there is someone behind the wheel tending to the minor corrections needed to keep the country on course that we don’t often see.

Anyway, just a thought. I might even order a roll printed and send it on up to His Electedness.

I bid you adieu and a don’t.

Adieu…keep an eye on the President’s lapel. One of these days, my little idea could be as big as cardboard coffee sleeves.

A don’t…forget that, sticker or not, there is someone in a mildly oblong office striking down, well, whatever it happens to be. Just remember, if the President won’t let it past his desk, it probably wasn’t in anyone’s best interest anyway…or at least we all hope that’s how it works.

On Time Travel, Murder and Suicide; A Bemusement

I bid you welcome. Consider with me, if you please, the following hypothetical scenario.

Let us imagine, and it likely isn’t much of a stretch, that you have a deep dark secret. It could be any of a multitude of things. A vice. A lie. A recurring unsavory activity or even a one time event like a murder or killing a pet by accidentally running it over with a lawn mower. You may pick for yourself. Whatever it is, it is very personal and if another human ever learned of it you’d be humiliated and ashamed. Perhaps you’ve hidden it so well from others that you’ve forgotten it yourself or it lurks in a cobwebbed corner of your psyche that you rarely visit.

Now we imagine that, wonder of wonders, time travel has been perfected and one day you are visited by future you. You know what future you knows and you know that he/she (depending) knows that you know that he/she (depending) knows. The question I put forth is this; does this constitute an awkward moment? An independent poll shows that one out of one of my co-workers feels it wouldn’t be awkward at all.

I think I disagree. Future me is a separate entity. He knows more than I know and has had more life experience. Perhaps he has moved on from whatever it is that shames me. I already judge myself rather harshly. How much more would an older and wiser me judge the current me? Would I lecture myself? Perhaps this is pointless because future me, assuming he’s moved on, knows that I will move on, the knowledge of which renders a lecture quite moot. Maybe he thinks he can help me move past it sooner than he did so he lectures me anyway. Or maybe this visit from the future is the very first in my timeline and therefore future me doesn’t yet know that the lecture is moot.

How would I react to a lecture from myself? Would it be like wrestling with something inside my own head with the only difference being that the voice of my conscience is now coming from outside of me? Would I heed my own advice or would I think that I am smarter than me? These questions drive me crazy.

Imagine that whatever is being hidden will soon cause disastrous
consequences and future me chose this exact moment to visit in order to avoid much pain and strife. Is this a smart choice for future me to make? How does he know that altering his past and my present won’t cause even more dire circumstances? Or maybe this isn’t his first trip back to my present. Maybe he’s seen what happens both ways and in his present he notices that something isn’t right and this tips him off to the fact that I haven’t followed his advice and he’s come to make another attempt.

What if he’s suicidal and he’s experienced so much pain between his then and my to be that he’s decided that it would be better to go back in time and off himself/myself before we have to go through all that. Would I defend myself from myself? And if so, how would I do it. What if I killed him? Would I, in his past, disappear? Or would I simply know how and sort of when I die in the future? I could judge by my future appearance my approximate age at the time I decided to come kill myself. Would I be able to kill him and then decide not to kill my past self when my present self gets to that point in the future?

If he killed me, he’d have to die also, but if I killed him would I be a murderer? Would it still be a suicide if I killed myself and lived to tell of it? Would I have a guilty conscience? And which of my selves would possess my soul? Could he continue to go back to different points in our timeline killing ourselves and populating the afterlife with many iterations of us/me? Or would all of our souls converge on one single death point as my finality? If that’s the case the only way he could end us would be to kill us in his own current timeline, however, that may not end us because current me could choose to kill myself at any time. I suppose that if I did that it would erase him. Is he living now or is he nonexistent until current me gets to his time point?

This is confusing. How do we know if we are at the very leading edge of our timelines or if we are simply past versions of the future we haven’t lived yet? Is future me already living? Am I ruining his future? If so, is he cross with me?

Now I have a headache. I’m going to bed. I bid you Adieu and a don’t

Adieu…make careful decisions. You could be causing your future self undue stress.

A don’t…walk on egg shells for fear of offending your future self. It seems highly unlikely he/she (depending) will ever come to visit.

Aging and Culinary Degeneration

There lived a man I called Opa. He, like Mean Yogurt, fancied himself wise. And wise perhaps he was. He was also, when I knew him, bitter and old and lonely and sweet in a bizarre way. He judged game show contestants on some scale known only to him and wished upon them such maladies as falling from stages and breaking legs. This is not what I wish to tell you about, however.

I will share with you the adventures I had while living with him during my abbreviated tenure at a community college in the vicinity of his home. He enjoyed cooking me breakfast. I found this endearing until I realized that every morning he cooked oatmeal. I enjoy oatmeal on occasion with the key phrase being on occasion. It certainly didn’t help that he added raisins. Hot raisins are one of my least appreciated foods. A couple of weeks passed and I learned to suppress my nature and eat the oatmeal anyway. One morning I shumbled to the kitchen to face our morning tradition and found that there were no small black lumps in my oatmeal! I picked up my spoon as my heart prepared to burst forth in rapturous melody! I dropped a dollop of what Opa called Oleo and I called margarine on top and dipped my spoon in to distribute the substance evenly throughout the cereal. As I stirred I learned that at the bottom of the bowl were many large black lumps that came to the surface and revealed their identity as prunes. This was bad, worse than the raisins, but it had nothing on orange oatmeal day. I remember the surface being quite flat and really rather noticeably orange. As I sat down I began formulating a plan to avoid what had been so lovingly crafted and generously placed before me. As luck would have it, the situation resolved itself. Opa went dig out a bite of his own oatmeal and had much trouble causing the spoon to penetrate the surface of the glop. When it finally did it became stuck and the cut it made in the oats reminded me of the way bread pudding sometimes looks when you scrape a bit from the mass. His attempt to extract his spoon resulted in the entire portion of cereal lifting free of the bowl and clinging, quite non-precariously, to his utensil. I seem to remember the bowl being left quite clean, almost as if it hadn’t mere moments ago held the vile concoction. He silently replaced his bowl shaped oatmeal block into his bowl shaped bowl. He stood and, still silent, removed both bowls to the sink where he graciously rid our lives of their contents into the disposal. He then stated quite matter-of-factly “I like to experiment with food. This one only cost me a few cents.”

“What did you put in it?” I asked with genuine curiosity.

By way of reply he simply held aloft a canister of a popular brand of powdered fiber supplement.

If you think the breakfast was bad, I shall now regale you with tales of dinner. Opa had the habit of walking, on a nearly daily basis, to the senior citizen center for lunch. (A meal which, thankfully, I partook of outside of his home.) At dinner time one evening he pried it out of me that I could stand to ingest some food. He bade me sit and began to prepare a plate. He started by removing a pint size milk carton from the refrigerator. From my vantage point I was unable to ascertain that the thing had been opened before he pulled it from the fridge. When he upended it over my plate there came sliding out a partially eaten slice of what most cafeterias refer to as roast beef. It splatted onto the ceramic followed shortly thereafter by a few drops of brown gravy that splashed very disturbingly onto the “meat”. He sat and watched me eat every bite. I thank God that that even though it was only partially eaten before I got my turn, the largest portion had been Opa’s.

Another horrid thing he tried to feed me was “soup”. It consisted of a light cooking oil broth into which he added partially devoured chicken tenders, apple slices, a can of peaches, craisins, onions and other assorted detritus. When he served it the oil he had boiled the stuff in was still popping with heat. He stared at his creation with an expression akin to that Dr. Frankenstein must’ve worn when he made the discovery that “It’s alive!” Again he silently cleared away the dishes laden with his untouched vittles and sat at the table with both hands propping his chin. He stated in quite a downtrodden tone of voice “I’m not as good a cook as your grandmother was.” I very silently and whole-heartedly concurred.

I bid you Adieu and a don’t.

Adieu…cherish any Opa you may have in your life. Mine was a World War II veteran and I consider myself eternally in his debt.

A don’t…be afraid to seek out other means of sustenance if ever faced with such culinary presentations. Just be sure to compliment your chef by bringing him a take out meal of his own. He likely is as dissatisfied with his cooking as you are.