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Free to Binge
Bingeing. It’s a thing now, especially during lockdown. Prolonged, end-to-end viewing of television programs for which numerous episodes are available — it certainly is a tribute to the technological wonders all around us that such an option is even available. And yet, this easy availability troubles me.

Contrary to reports you may have heard (from my life-mate) I am not anti-binge. Please understand that, though I am not a member of the Freedom Caucus, I am absolutely pro-freedom. People should be able to do whatever they want to as long as no one else is harmed. My concerns about bingeing, then, are strictly reserved for my own choices and patterns of behavior. Others should chart their own paths. And risk madness — or worse.

To be fair, such outcomes are rare. Or so it has been alleged by my life-mate. Anyway, my chief issue around bingeing is more about aesthetic well-being than physical. Watching parts of an artistic drama that was conceived to be experienced discretely is an approach fraught with dangers.

Not the least of these is the possibility of a colossal waste of time. Not in watching shows you really enjoy, but in watching shows you turn out not to enjoy. You know what I’m talking about: some story or character will suck you in at the beginning, and before you know it you’re 20 episodes into some cavalcade of dreck without any way to get any of that time back. Or worse, you ignore the clear early warnings in a multi-season show (like the multiple decapitations in Episode 1 of Game of Thrones), only to discover in Season 5 that you really don’t like torture and non-stop graphic violence after all. Those hours — to say nothing of the enormous emotional investment — are gone forever, and you have precious little to show for the experience.

There is also the distinct possibility that such investments might begin to compete with real-world demands for your time and attention. Your job, your family, your social life — activities that involves actual, flesh-and-blood people — can all become drab and empty when compared to your imaginary existence among dragons, time-travelers, and British royalty. And speaking of British serials, we can see the even more pronounced disorientation wrought by the the appearance of the same actors in every show — in different storylines, as both heroes and villains, across a kaleidiscope of settings, both real and imagined. No wonder our lives are in chaos.

Or so it seems to me. Wouldn’t it be better, for you and your loved ones (talking to you, life-mate), to simply enjoy individual installments of your chosen TV show one at a time? To savor each episode and fully explore all the hypothetical storyline permutations presented by that chapter? Rather than rushing through them in an orgy of consumption?

That is my argument, at least, when the matter is discussed in my home theater. Since we are in lockdown, of course, actual disagreements are forbidden, so we compromise. My life-mate doesn’t watch my shows and I don’t watch hers. Separate…and free.
One More Try
I am now willing to admit that my quest to find an explanation for the MAGA phenomenon may never find fulfillment. I have even come to accept the possibility that “understanding,” in the strictly rational sense, may be unattainable.

But there may be another path. It was suggested to me recently that the forces driving the MAGAs could best be viewed as “feelings.” That insight has given me pause, perhaps because it is so obviously true. But this realization still leaves me with a knotty conundrum: what feelings could generate this kind of seeming madness? Finding my explanation in the universe of feelings could be even more challenging than my vain attempts to find any kind of logic or reason in that strange netherworld.

Still, I feel the need to try. Let’s start by removing intelligence from our consideration. Smarts have nothing to do with feelings. Skeptical thinking is also out of the picture, along with common sense, good judgment, education, expertise, and real life experience. And talking about facts would be irrelevant.

We do, however, have to look at evidence. Not evidence for or against some proposition or idea or assertion, but of feelings. If we want to know what feelings are in play here, we have to look at all the available data. Sadly, there’s not a lot to go on when trying to figure out what other people are feeling.

What people say about how they feel should be considered, but such declarations are notoriously unreliable. It is much better to examine how people act if we want to get an accurate take on their emotional state.

Let’s start with facial expressions. When I see our current president speak at a rally, I examine the faces of the supporters sitting right behind him, looking for clues. It’s not a pretty picture. There is laughter, but it is almost exclusively in response to put-downs. Indeed, many of the insults from their hero are founded on cruelty. I also see hatred. And petty grievance, and revenge.

I suppose we are all susceptible to such feelings. Like the MAGAs, we are human. But I would be more comfortable with these people if I could detect some compassion or gentleness or hope in their faces. Or something like love or genuine curiosity. This is not to say that these people don’t possess these feelings. But if they do, they are not bringing them to political events.

We can also look for evidence of feelings in the conduct we see from MAGAs. In that respect (though Matthew McConaughey will no doubt disagree with me), The Right seems much more at ease with physical violence than The Left. You know, killing people and stuff. Or maybe they just give in to their violent impulses more easily. Let’s agree, in any case, that both sides smash windows. Okay, Matthew?

I have not observed that MAGAs necessarily harbor feelings of racism. They do, however, hang out with a lot of people who do. In fact, they readily admit racists and white supremecists and nazis into their gatherings. Those are the deplorables you've heard about. That could simply mean, I suppose, that MAGAs tend to be forgiving and non-judgmental.

Unlike me. Oh, I can forgive, I guess, but I can’t help being judgmental. When I see people enjoying cruelty, when they seem drawn to meanness strictly for its own sake, when I see them reveling in hatred, I wonder whether such people are morally and ethically weak. Bad, in other words.

Let me assure you, Matthew, that when you say there are good people on both sides, I do not immediately think: yes, but there just happen to be a lot more of them on The Left. I do however, feel as if that’s true.
Nice Try
Americans are a nice people. Really. Didn’t we did just finish celebrating a holiday that showcases gratitude and thankfulness? Undeniably nice, Id say. And now we are heading into and even bigger celebration that is all about giving. Super nice.

You might suggest here, speaking merely as the Devil’s Advocate (for which you are being handsomely paid, I’ll wager), that some of our other holidays might paint a somewhat different picture of the American psyche. That is fine, of course, because in this country representatives of pure evil are always welcome to join the discussion. In this case, as Satan’s White-shoed Solicitor, you would point to the very next holiday on the docket, New Year’s Eve. Its focus seems to be getting slobbering drunk, taking part in dangerous and illegal behavior, and wrecking whatever good may have been wrought by the previous two holidays. Okay, point taken. But that’s just one holiday.

I’m going bypass the heroes and Presidents’ holidays, if you don’t mind. I would argue that it’s good to honor people whose qualities we’d like to emulate, but never mind. I know that you (as the Prince of Darkness’ Mouthpiece) would strenuously object. Before we start congratulating ourselves about Honest Abe and MLK, you would probably demand to see some proof that we all tend to be more honest or non-violent around these holidays. Wouldn’t you? I am not prepared, at this time, to produce that evidence. Instead, why don’t we move on to the next large, regular holiday…

St. Valentine’s Day! It’s all about love! What could be more lovable than that? The candy, the flowers, the goopy greeting cards! I am already sensing, however, that you (as Lucifer’s Lawyer) are about to complain that all the lovey-doveyness is manufactured and coerced. I hope you don’t mind me saying so, but that seems so cold, cynical, and (I’m beginning to suspect) un-American.

Which brings us to Memorial Day and the 4th of July. You got a problem with those holidays, Beelzebub’s Buttboy?!

Okay, that was over the line. I guess I lost it there for a second. I wasn’t nice, that’s for sure. Why don’t we just move on to Labor Day? Even the Archfiend needs a day off, right? Wait a minute…No? Are you really saying, Counselor to the Antichrist, that Labor Day is a holiday for slackers?

You know, I’m starting to think that maybe the Devil doesn’t even have a right to an attorney. Anyway, we’ve come all the way around to Thanksgiving again. And I’m just thankful this discussion is over. Case closed.
There it sits
In the back
Of the fridge
Faded, deflated
Flaccid and flat
Sad and alone
Bereft of appeal

It was once
A proud confection
Beautiful, fulsome
Fragrant and enticing
But no more
A lump of starch now
And a blob of goo

Yes, stiff and shrunken
But still filled with fat
And even flavor
So what will it be?
Devour the morsel
Or scrape it
Into oblivion

Or, a third way?
Levitate the glob
And containerize
Then shove it back
Even deeper in the fridge
To mellow, to cure
To steep, to age
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon