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Moment of Truth: February 25 2017

 Both Sides Now

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

I have awoken to a new reality. I unfriended an abusive Hillary zealot. I feel as though a great turd has been lifted from my shoulders.

The sun seems brighter and warmer today, or maybe it's just the global warming. Thanks to human activity, fossil fuel burning and farm animal flatulence, the Earth has decided to hurl herself into the Sun. Nevertheless, until I start to burn up, I'm determined to enjoy the benefits of the Supersun with as much enthusiasm as I can muster.

This is called "finding the silver lining." Of course, you've heard of the silver lining. But do you know where they get these silver linings? They're inside clouds. When I was a kid, I heard that every cloud had a silver lining. Every cloud. Growing up as a secular- humanist Jew on the outskirts of Detroit, I assumed this was something Christians came up with. Christianity, as far as I understood it, was about clouds. After you died you went up into the sky and lounged about on the fluffy clouds. I spent many an afternoon looking up at the fluffy clouds, imagining myself lounging on them. It seemed a pleasant but far- fetched promise.

In the waiting room of my pediatrician's office, Dr. Blum, a Jew, there was a perplexing amount of Christian literature. Highlights magazine always seemed Christian to me, with Goofus and Gallant and Aloysius the wolf. And then there were the more obviously Christian books of Bible stories, with illustrations of holy characters with their arms out to their sides, palms out, with crepuscular sunbeams streaming through the clouds behind them. I believe Dr. Blum's receptionist picked out this literature for the children in his waiting room to while away their anxious time before they had to get a shot.

Every cloud had a silver lining, I was told. And on some level I took it literally, and scoffed at it. "No they don't," I thought, with a skeptical sneer. Why would they? Why would they have any lining at all? What's with the lining? Lining in a cloud? Why?

I was 18 years old before I ever flew on an airplane. This is because, when I was growing up, we were poorly. On my first flight I made sure to pay attention as we passed through clouds, checking for silver linings. No silver linings. I didn't really expect them, but it was satisfying to have my childhood biases confirmed. Yep, Christianity, debunked again. Christians and their silly ideas about clouds.

But I fear I've trivialized the issue. The silver lining model is not peripheral to Christianity. It was what made Christianity popular in the first place. Yes, you're poor, diseased, they've taken everything from you, locked you up, tortured you, but the silver lining is, you'll get to go to Heaven when you die.

The story about God coming to Earth in the form of his own virgin-birthed son, that I get. But all the cloud stuff comes off as the most simpleminded marketing strategy.

Clouds, of course, in reality, are useful as well as fascinating. This stereotype of a cloud showing up to spoil your beautiful clear sky is derogatory and unflattering. Clouds, like immigrants, are something the USA can't do without. I'm sure we're all familiar with the newspaper photograph of an outraged, fist-shaking Abe Simpson under the headline "Old Man Yells At Cloud." Very amusing, but on the serious side, how different is Abe's cloud-bashing from Donald Trump's fascist immigrant-bashing? Only different in degree, I'd say.

Clouds bring rain and shade and make our planet look beautiful from space. Clouds don't need a silver lining. Clouds are their own silver lining.

What brought this saying to mind is a conversation I was having a few days ago with a currently unemployed friend. "At least you'll have time to work on your art," I said, "so, there's a silver lining."

I realized during that conversation that I've had to do this "look on the bright side" and "make lemonade from these lemons" narrative contortions many times since November 8 of last year. "Well, a Creamsicle Fascist Raccoon is in the White House, but at least people are now enraged at one common enemy." "The new Secretary of Education is a figurehead for the for-profit education lobby, but maybe it will finally rally the unprivileged majority to the cause of public education." "GOP control of Congress and the executive branch will allow them to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but at least people are realizing there are parts of the ACA they don't want to get rid of, and that the ACA and Obamacare are the same thing, and the GOP legislature is looking like the unprepared worthless gasbags they are." A lot of silver linings there.

Current affairs are so demoralizing these days that it seems all we've got are silver linings. As if the victory of thuggish moronic hamfisted fascism has ripped open all the clouds, dumped all the down out of them, torn out all the linings and tossed them into the street. And we, the people, march off to our jobs or to the unemployment bureau or to the cardboard box or abandoned station wagon we live in, past these piles of rumpled silver linings, good for nothing, just filthy, not even real silver but more like a cheap TJ Maxx version of silver lamé, fraying and prickly, not even good for use as a blanket. I hate that stuff. It's worse than itchy wool. It should never be used as a lining. It should never touch the skin or any fabric you're wearing that you'd want to wear again. It's a decoration at best, and one that doesn't last long before it betrays its lack of quality.

I've looked at clouds from both sides now. The more realistic, useful and often majestic portrait from meteorology, and the irrelevant caricature born of crude Christianity and represented by mawkish "inspirational" media. Oh, the metaphors I could weave right now, the storm clouds gathering on the horizon, the reaping of the whirlwind, the fog of war that threatens to enshroud our tenuous civilization, but I'm not going there. Clouds are real things, and we wield them much too frivolously in our rhetoric. Sorry to rain on your parade.

I made up with the Hillary zealot during the writing of this piece. Grudgingly. The burdensome turd that was lifted from my shoulders is once again my turd burden. I'll no doubt be irked by any number of bourgeois pseudo-progressive losers with no capacity for self-examination whatsoever. But I don't believe in weeding negative people out of my life. I think that's the coward's way. Not because I need them as an allies, but because I have completely unwarranted confidence in my resilient grace. Jerks can annoy me, thugs can hijack my quasi-democracy, fascists might swarm and dismantle everything I and my community have built. But they can't defeat my grace. The worst they can do is kill me. And then I'm dead, so my worries are over.

That's the ultimate silver lining. The sweet eternal leisure of Death.

Not that I'm some kind of warrior who's come to terms with life's brief absurdity, but I've given up expending useless energy fretting, panicking and grieving. I also look to those stronger and better organized than I and use my perception of their strength to prop up my complacency. This method is so much better than looking for silver linings, which are cheap now and cluttering up our thoroughfares like poisoned birds that have dropped from the sky. I'm not heroic, but I have learned how to admire good people in a way that works for me!

And what good is a good person if they don't provide an advantage to me? Otherwise they're just Mozart to my Solieri, and that's not any way to live. Instead of relying solely on the energy I get from my passionate hatred of the low-quality people running the world, I have discovered a way to enrich myself spiritually by admiring the fighting spirit of those who resist. It's something like harvesting renewable energy.

Let us renounce the silver lining model from now forward. We're in a fight, and the people on our side are the better people. That's not a silver lining, that's how the forces are arrayed. It's the nature of the war. We don't need to make lemonade or look on the bright side. We're the better people. End of story.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!

Moment of Truth


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