Tuesday, January 20, 2009

High on Hope

I'm far from the most patriotic American out there. Though I used to be fiercely patriotic, so much so that I'd often engage in prolonged shouting matches with anyone who questioned the motives of our "leaders," and the purpose of the War on Terror and in Iraq.

It wasn't a slow transition to where I stand now. When I first started college back in January of 06, I was still a proud patriot, willing to defend my country against any detractors. However, upon being faced with America's true history, as opposed to the white-washed, propagandized version served up in elementary and high-schools across the nation, I was forced to change. Note that I didn't choose to change, but was forced to beneath the weight of the evidence that this country was not, in fact, some shining city on a hill.

Keep in mind that I harbor no ill-will towards America, but I merely see it now as it truly is: another imperfect, secular nation, subject to the flaws of it's inhabitants and leaders. During this transition, my allegiance shifted drastically from being towards the symbols of this country such as the flag, our version of freedom and democracy, or "the office of the president," to being merely with the people of the nation and wanting whatever was best for them. Or, in short, I abandoned the American ideology in favor of supporting uncompromising truth, regardless of what side of the political aisle it may lay on, even if it lay on the fringes of political thought.

I do what I do, vote how I vote, and support the ideas I support, because I love the people who inhabit the American land, and not because I love the the land or the nebulous and ever-shifting American Idea. If doing what is right and good means abandoning the flag, then I'm prepared to do so.

Now, with that out of the way...I watched the inauguration of our newest President, Barack Obama, today. I must admit that I felt enormous pride swelling up inside me as he spoke the oath of office. I even got a tad choked up (but hid it as best I could, seeing as I was in public at the time). This doesn't mean racism is dead and defeated in this country, but without a doubt, the election of President Obama is a sign that we are moving in the right direction.

At the same time, I feel elated not just by hope of a future marked by racial equality, but by the hope that the future might be brighter than the past in many more ways. However, going even deeper into my heart, I tell myself not to get excited. Maybe it's just because I'm a pessimist, but then again, maybe my concerns are real.

Before progress can be made, so much must be undone before we even begin to gain any ground. Not only that, but what if President Obama disappoints? Many on the left have already begun scrutinizing and critiquing his decisions. Needless to say, so have those on the right. He says he intends to listen to the people and to run the most transparent and open government in American history. Will he? My hopes are high. But like a drug that lifts you out of a depression, it's not substantive. We need results, and until I see them, I won't be celebrating (at least not too much).

Let's not let this optimism go unfettered, so as not to become complacent stooges and baseless defenders of the office of the president, either Obama or some other future occupant.

-C. McEnroy

Sunday, January 18, 2009

How Much Is Too Much?

There was a story in my local paper the other day that sparked a bit of conversation between my mother and I. The news story involves one Dr. Joel Cooper, formerly of Washington University Medical School. Dr. Cooper is the surgeon who performed the world's first successful lung transplant back in the 80s.

My mother picked up on the story because I am the recent recipient of a successful lung transplant myself. The operation was on November 4th this past year. Anyways, Cooper says that Wash U. let him go because of his age and says he was treated unfairly. Wash U. contends that Dr. Cooper wasn't bringing in enough revenue and was only willing to pay him $600,000 per year for three more years at the school. Cooper is suing the reputable medical school for $800,000 for breaching their contract with him. At one time, the good doctor was making about $750,000 a year from Wash U.

The question my mother asked me was not about the trial, but simply about whether I think Cooper deserves such an exorbitant salary. My answer was "no." This apparently threw my mom for a loop, saying, "But you had a lung transplant! He started the program!"

Now, I don't for a second question the man's competence (though his ego seems to be the most obvious victim during this whole affair, he is a surgeon after all). He's clearly an entirely competent and brilliant doctor. I have to say, and this would probably drive some of my relatives wild, but I don't think anybody has any business earning that kind of money, unless they're giving a considerable portion away to good, charitable causes. This stems from my faith and my understanding of Jesus' own words concerning money.

For one, money is power, and thus the potential for corruption is ever present. Absolute power and all that jazz...Secondly, there are simply too many poor people in this world for anyone to be hoarding money like some folks do. Now, I don't know if Dr. Cooper is a Christian, so I can't in fairness hold him to my standard of morality. However, I'm sorely concerned about the number of Christians who are rich beyond their wildest imaginations, but do little with it to ease the suffering of the world.

For anyone who happens upon this, Christian or not, what are your views on the mass accumulation of wealth?

-C. McEnroy

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Story So Far...(Part 1)

In writing biographically about myself, I must decide at what point in my life I should begin. I could start at the beginning with my birth and tell a straightforward narrative of my life, year by year, highlighting the more interesting moments therein. I don't like that idea, though. My life, thus far, can be carved up into a number of different epochs such as my adolescence, my pre-transplant era, or post-transplant era, which is currently unfolding.

Every character has that defining moment which inexorably alters the course of their life. The murder of Bruce Wayne's parents would lead to his adoption of his alter-ego, Batman. Uncle Ben's observation that "With great power, comes great responsibility," to young Peter Parker, followed by Ben's untimely murder, being two culturally relevant examples.

I believe that the best place to start, however, is right in the middle, during the transition from my pre 9/11 self to my post 9/11 self. The events of September 11, 2001 are, without a doubt, the catalyst which began my evolution into who I now am.

When it happened, I was living in a podunk town out west. There were only about 500 residents. Most of the town, as you might be able to guess, were highly conservative folks. At the time, I didn't know what I was politically. I had tried getting interested in politics during the recent presidential election, but I truly couldn't have cared less.

That morning I was in Algebra. Class had barely begun, and I was dicking around with some of my friends when our principal, a fairly handsome guy with dark hair combed modestly to the side, opened the door to the room, motioning for our teacher to approach. Of course, we knew someone was in deep shit, but who?

The teacher (I can't remember her name) looked solemn and contained - unusual for a woman as high strug as she was (students often bitched about not being able to keep up with her lessons, myself included). She turned on the television in the corner, flipping, if I remember right, to Fox News. There on the tv was the haunting image of the first tower, having just been struck minutes before, now a towering inferno (sorry for the cliche), with impenetrably thick smoke billowing from the side of the building.

It was uncertain at that point what exactly had happened, and many of us thought that some pilot had just made a serious error and landed inside the World Trade Center. Class continued, but with the television still on, muted. Leaving class, being our ignorant, thoughtless selves, myself and a couple friends made light of the situation while heading to English where details about what exactly was happening became terrifyingly clear.

The second plane smashed into the second tower with flames rocketing out the other end of the building. The destruction transforming several floors into the worst imaginings of Hell, with many innocent lives left to suffer the terrible holocaust. It would only be later that we would find out the situation for those stuck in the inferno was so horrible that casting themselves from the windows seemed like a better option than sticking around.

The day continued, but always with the TVs on, reminding us of what was happening in New York, and later, at the Pentagon. I was 14, and I had no idea what was happening, no context whatsoever. Unfortunately, neither did the majority of my fellow Americans. On the news, it was surmised fairly quickly who had done this: Al Qaeda, masterminded by some Arabian looking guy named Sam Ben Laden? I'd never heard of him.

"Why do they hate us?" became the question on everyone's tongues. The answer: "They hate us for our freedoms. Our freedom of religion. Our freedom to vote. Our freedom to speak freely." A terribly simple and myopic answer, but it seemed goddamn right to me. If we are to feel anything after this, I thought, it ought to be anger. I was beginning to feel the first vestiges of patriotism swelling in my heart. My world, seemingly in an instant, expanded, no longer was I bound by the roads that would lead me around my home. I may not be able to go to these places I was hearing about: Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, but they were real, and we were going to go there and kick some ass. My thirst for revenge against the terrorists was fueled greatly by my discovery of a certain television personality who would, for the next few years, shape my attitudes towards my country and anyone who disagreed with me (and thus my country)...more to come in part 2.

C. McEnroy

Laughing Out Loud

How to begin? And where for that matter? I'm constantly being encouraged to write more, and have been told that I write well. I hate taking part in trends, tending to go against the grain, or encourage those who do, as often as possible. I especially hate taking part in trends late, but here I am, blogging, like the rest of the world. Forgive me.

The title of of this blog The Man Who Laughs comes from a novel by Victor Hugo, but is probably not as obscure a title as I would hope thanks in large part to Batman. The main character in the novel, Gwynplaine, is a disfigured and tragic hero, whose facial disfigurement inspired the Joker character, who, as we all know was not a hero, but a psychopath. The similarities between the two characters are purely superficial.

I, however, didn't choose the title because I enjoyed the book (I've yet to read it, I admit) or because I feel I share some qualities with Gwynplaine (maybe The Joker though, but another time...) but rather, because a quote I enjoy by Horace Walpole, stating, "This world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel," which neatly sums up my attitude towards the world- I'd much rather think, and find the comedy, however dark, in life than spend my time crying over it's tragedy.

Here at The Man Who Laughs, I'll be recording any random mental ejaculations that come to mind along with some topical splurging as well (hopefuly more of the latter than the former) including, but not limited to my thoughts on the two topics most often discussed, and most likely to instigate an argument amongst my family - politics and religion, as well as musings on the media, pop culture, movies, music, and literature.

I don't know if this experiment will bear any fruit. I pray that it does and that it might lead to more publishable works in the future. Here's to hoping.

In the next entry, I'll put down a little bit about myself, who I am, and how I became the person that I am now.

-C. McEnroy