Review: Skipping Towards Gomorrah

Skipping Towards GomorrahSkipping Towards Gomorrah by Dan Savage
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My fellow liberals: remember the Bush years? We were at the mercy of the “Moral Majority,” the theocracy seemed inevitable, our LGBT friends (or selves) were criminals, and everywhere you looked, another blonde Republican lady author was scrawling a book that we were traitors or monsters or traitor-monsters. It was a dark time. Dan Savage wrote a book lashing out at the perceived “immorality” of the times. “All things in moderation,” he writes, “even moderation itself.”

And although I’m writing this review during the odious rise of Donald Trump and all that this entails about a certain percentage of the electorate, it really has gotten a lot better. Gay marriage is the law of the land (although like abortion rights, it’s under assault and will be for a long while), DOMA is dead, and the “Moral Majority” as a political entity to supporting an obvious lizard-person in a human skin suit (Cruz) or a blatant opportunist who so obviously doesn’t give a shit about that “moral majority’s morals” so long as they vote for him. It’s been a long, hard fall from the Evangelical’s pinnacle of power in the early 00’s. We have an African American president now. We (hopefully) will see the first female president. Pot is legal in a few states, including mine! Concern about climate change has gone from being a punchline on South Park to a real thing that many reasonable people are seriously concerned about. In short, it’s a different era.

But it’s good to remember what it was like, not too long ago. “Skipping Towards Gomorrah” isn’t timeless; it’s rooted deeply in the political landscape that was the Bush years. But that’s precisely one of the things that makes it so compellingly readable today. It’s a chance to remember what it was like before. It’s a chance to compare what we railed against then to what we rail against now. And while we’re certainly not living in liberal utopia (and might soon take a hard right turn to dystopia, if we’re not careful) . . . it has gotten better.

Aside from the trip down memory lane, Savage’s writing style is crisp and wonderfully funny. He writes with clarity and self-awareness (but not self-consciousness). It’s unlikely that you’ll read this book if you’re not already drinking deeply of our liberal gay hippie kool-aid (it’s organic and locally sourced, yo) but Savage will surprise you. He doesn’t always do what you’ll expect for a sex columnist who is also a gay man. Look for the chapters on wrath (guns) and pride (gay pride) to see what I mean.

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I Don’t Understand The Current GOP

If you’d ask me to sum up Republicans in a few stereotypes, one of the big ones would be “loving the military and everything that the military does is super awesome.”

Republicans love the military. They love military spending, they love cool fighter jets and big tanks and awesome guns that can kill people from three miles away. They love thinking about how America is the world’s greatest military superpower. Republicans believe that the only time it’s acceptable for a man to cry in front of another man is during the honoring of military heroism or remembering the fallen. Republicans believe that the sacredness of the veteran is second only to Jesus, who is the Christ, and even then . . . it’d be tough to choose if you asked a Republican to say which one was more sacred.

That sounds right, doesn’t it? It’s certainly not those Democrats who have the stereotype of being all about the veterans and the military. I’m not saying that Democrats are anti-military. I’m just saying we have the stereotype of being not on board. We have to worry about swift-boating. We get called “traitors” a lot because of criticism of the military. We’re definitely considered to be a bunch of tree-huggers.

One of my favorite Democrats wanted to replace the Department of Defense with the Department of Peace. There isn’t a Republican worth his domestic beer that would suggest such a thing.

With all that in mind, somebody please tell me what the fuck is going on with this Bowe Bergdahl thing?

Seriously. I can’t fucking understand it. The man’s a soldier. A veteran. One of America’s “fighting men,” as John McCain would say. He wears the uniform of the United States military.

“No one gets left behind” isn’t just a cornerstone of the American military, it’s pretty much its most sacred commandment. Marines are trained not to leave a man behind, even if you know that he’s dead. You bring your brother (or sister!) back home. You don’t leave anyone to the enemy. Risk your life if you have to. Carry him out on your shoulders or drag him behind you, but don’t leave him behind.

No. Matter. What.

It’s like, Jesus Christ, even a tree-hugging, vegetarian liberal like me understands and respects that basic truth about the military. I respect the hell out of this particular truth.

Regardless of why we went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, regardless of the morality of why we’re fighting, it doesn’t change the fact that the men and women who did that fighting volunteered for it. The fact that they volunteered meant that I didn’t have to fight.

So the Obama administration brings Bergdahl home. The last Afghanistan War POW is returned home.

And suddenly, this is a bad thing? Suddenly, there are qualifiers about who gets left behind and who doesn’t?

Fucking explain this to me. Explain this to me as anything other than evidence that the GOP has lost its goddamn collective mind over how much it hates anything Obama does.

Because honestly, at this point, it looks like if Obama declared that being able to breathe oxygen was the right of every American, Republicans would declare that free, breathable oxygen was an evil socialist plot and that the market should decide whether Americans deserve oxygen or one of the other market-based alternatives, such as argon or chlorine. You know, I’ve heard good things about some of those noble gases; maybe we should try some of those instead. Xenon might be fun.

I realized that I’m incrediably biased when it comes to politics. I’m really, really far to the left on, well, nearly everything. My opinion on what Republicans do isn’t going to be reasonable a lot of the time. I’m not always willing to admit that some the things my side does are fucking stupid, even though they sometimes are.

But the military? Republicans are mad that a POW was returned to American soil? How the hell is bringing home a POW a controversy?

It’s supposed to be “no one gets left behind.” Not “no one gets left behind . . . as long as we like you enough to bother trying to save your ass. If we don’t like you, fuck off and die.”

And yes, I recognize that there are some Democrats complaining about Bergdahl’s return as well. But I expect Democrats to bitch about anything related to the military. That’s nothing new. It isn’t even surprising.

Seriously, I feel like I’m taking crazy pills. I think back to the Bush years and how much the military and “support our troops” were the hallmarks of the Republican identity. It really does illustrate just how much the past five-and-a-half years of Obama have made the GOP go absolutely insane.

NASA Study Says Rich People Will Destroy Human Civilization

In the wake of yesterday’s contemplation of my own poor money habits, I thought it fitting to share a story that confirms my poor impulse control in actually helping save human civilization as we know it. Woo, go me.

Apparently, a new NASA study has determined that modern civilization is doomed to collapse and that it’s due to happen in the next few decades. And the reason for this collapse? It’s not climate change or nuclear war; it’s due to rich people. More precisely: social stratification and unequal distribution of resources:

Motesharri investigated the factors that could lead to the fall of civilization, which included population growth and climate change, the New Zealand Herald reported. He found that when such issues interact, they can cause the breakdown of society through the “stretching of resources” and “the economic stratification of society into ‘Elites’ and ‘Masses’.”

Using different scenarios, Motesharri and his fellow researchers found that collapse is difficult to avoid under the current conditions. In these scenarios, they discovered that elite wealth monopolies are affected much later by environmental collapse than common people, which allows them to continue their “business as usual” way of living despite the catastrophe, according to the Guardian.

Human civilization is in its twilight and it’s mainly due to income disparity and the control of resources. The next time someone on Fox News opines that it’s wrong to punish success by taxing the rich, you can point out that if we don’t tax the rich to make them less rich, human civilization ends.

I don’t know about you, not being rich myself, but I’d feel really bad if I was the cause of the collapse of civilization.

Worry not, for there is hope! But if you have a lot of money or if you watch Fox News, you’re probably not going to like what that hope requires. That’s right, it’s time to pucker up and kiss communism right on its big, Marxist-Leninist-socialist-whatever-ist loving lips.

However, the researchers stated that society can avoid collapse with the right policies and structural changes, which can also lead to the creation of a more stable and advanced society, the Guardian reported. The two key solutions are to reduce economic inequality to make sure resources are distributed fairly, and to reduce the consumption of resources by relying less on limited resources and bringing down population growth. With these changes, the “business as usual” model can end and civilization can be saved and evolve.

I don’t know about this. Sounds more like class warfare and typical liberal propaganda to me. Instead of unpleasant policy and structural changes (socialism!), we should “something something something job creators something something it’s what Jesus would have wanted.”

Okay, enough jokes. I actually do believe there’s a real story here, so I’ll turn off the sarcasm for a moment and speak directly. Is the end really “extremely fucking nigh?”

Maybe. On all matters of doomsaying, I remain cautiously optimistic. I generally think that people are good and we’re capable of saving ourselves from destruction. Predictions of doom are a dime a dozen, both from street prophets and well-meaning scientists alike.

On the other hand, civilization is a remarkably fragile thing. It is rather like a spider-web; beautiful and strong but still fragile and in need of constant repair. Civilizations before ours have fallen to war, to social collapse, to neglect, to the failure to adapt to new paradigms.

We’d be arrogant indeed to assume that just because we have the Internet and smartphones, we’re immune to the pendulum of history and the caprice of nature.

Wealth inequality is a real problem, not just in the United States but across the entire world.

Happiness Is Being An Aging Liberal

A friend (who also happens to be my most dedicated commentator) sent me a link to a new study on what makes us happy. Now, typically I approach such things with a bit of skepticism. It is, after all, common to see studies touting sample sizes of mere handfuls or studies lasting for very short lengths of time. Not this one, however! This study followed 268 men for seventy-five freaking years. That’s pretty damn impressive, in and of itself. Another impressive fact, aside from the length of the study, was the breadth of it:

. . . measuring an astonishing range of psychological, anthropological, and physical traits—from personality type to IQ to drinking habits to family relationships to “hanging length of his scrotum”—in an effort to determine what factors contribute most strongly to human flourishing.

Now that is some thorough research. I’ve honestly never wondered whether the “hanging length of the scrotum” might contribute, positively or negatively, to one’s level of happiness.

Some of the data proves what common sense already dictated: drinking is bad for your happiness, smoking kills you. Nice to have a scientific confirmation for these things, but nothing really earthshaking yet. Don’t worry, we’ll get to that bit soon.

It was interesting to me that “there was no significant difference in maximum income earned by men with IQs in the 110–115 range and men with IQs higher than 150.” It seems a little bit counter-intuitive, but if I might speculate, perhaps this is because the 110-115 range is the IQ most likely to have a decently paying job while individuals in the 150+ range are more likely to pursue intellectually stimulating professions that offer only comparable or inferior salaries. Like I said, this is speculation on my part; the study itself indicates that it is a higher number of “warm relationships” rather than IQ that contributes more towards high income and personal happiness.

For me, here’s the statistic that I found both the most interesting and also the most personally satisfying:

Aging liberals have more sex. Political ideology had no bearing on life satisfaction—but the most-conservative men ceased sexual relations at an average age of 68, while the most-liberal men had active sex lives into their 80s. “I have consulted urologists about this,” Vaillant writes. “They have no idea why it might be so.”

So while my liberal ideology won’t make me more satisfied with my life, it will mean I’ll likely have more sex. And while that might not lead to happiness on its own, I certainly can’t imagine where it’s going to hurt my chances at happiness. I don’t know about you, but this fact makes me feel a certain smug sense of satisfaction and vindication, which is not to say that I felt my beliefs needed vindication. It’s just one of those things.

If you’d like to find out the true cause of happiness, since it’s not a higher IQ or more sex, check out the article.